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If you have ever been delayed in transit due to inclement weather and had to sleep in the airport, you will agree that it was not the best night sleep you have ever had! The hard floor, bright lights, sterile smells and jarring sounds of the environment are not conducive to peaceful sleep. You may have dropped off to sleep, but I would probably have woken regularly during the night. Such is the impact of sensory input in a sleep zone.
Smells enter the nose and create a chemical reaction on the mucous membranes of the nasal passages which is interpreted by the brain as a smell. Smells are a very special sensory input as they are processed by the brain in a very different way to any other sense. Smell is the only sense that is not processed first by the relay center of the brain (the thalamus) before being perceived. Smells go directly to the conscious brain and have direct connections to the limbic system as well. The limbic system controls our memory and feelings. This is why a smell so quickly transports us back to a memory of a place and the feelings about that place.
Since smell is such a pervasive sense, it is vital that your baby’s nursery or sleep zone is soothing on an olfactory level.
Newborn’s sense of smell is significantly more sensitive than older babies and toddlers so the principle with babies under three months is to use products with no fragrance.
From three months onwards use smells to calm your baby before, during and even while sleeping:
The following smells work well for sleep
Bath time – use baby bath products such as a bath emollient, foaming soap or lotion with a scent. Bedtime – at bedtime, give your baby a massage or at least rub them with cream that has a calming smell. In the bedroom – buy a burner for essential oils that can be placed out of reach of your baby but will fill the room with a calming smell. A blanky that smells of mom or baby is also very soothing. You can buy teddies or soft toys that are impregnated with a soothing scent.
Loud noises and a wide variety of tune, rhythm and pitch are alerting to our brains. On the other hand, sounds can be very soothing and in fact shift us down a state from over stimulated to calm or from drowsy to sleeping. Use soothing sounds in your baby’s room to help her fall asleep:
White noise: White noise is sound played at a certain frequency with consistency that becomes background sound, such as water running or an air conditioner in a room. The background sounds your baby heard in utero is white noise and helps newborns all the way through to adulthood to sleep better. White noise not only shifts one into a deeper sleep state but also masks any irregular sounds that may wake your baby up, such as a phone ringing. Some good white noise ideas are:
- A fountain outside your baby’s room
- Humidifier in the room
- Air conditioner
- Tune a radio to no station and play radio static quietly in the background or use white noise such as the Baby Sense Womb to World™
Lullaby: The singing of lullabies is passed from generation to generation by mothers. These moments of peace just before your baby falls asleep are precious beyond words. Mother’s just know that the soothing lilt of a lullaby works best.
- Singing lullabies to your baby helps him to shift into a drowsy state, facilitating easier transition to the sleep state.
- Play lullabies to your baby
By using specific sensory input in your baby’s environment, you will find your baby will be calmer and more likely to fall asleep with ease.
By Meg Faure