The 5 Senses of Sleep & Why Each Impacts Their Sleep Differently

Oct 25, 2022

 After 9 months of a warm, dark, noisy, and safe cocoon, our babies are thrust into this world. So, it’s pretty safe to say their bodies are overwhelmed by all the stimuli.  Truth be told, this overwhelming of the senses doesn’t just happen to infants but can affect people at any stage of life. I know I can easily get overwhelmed in a store when I can’t easily slide clothes on the rack, I have to physically take a break from that section and come back to it later.
Our bodies are so wise and can do a lot to protect and redirect us when our senses are overwhelmed. When sleep enters the picture, the senses have a lot to say about what they like, and the body can naturally produce melatonin and relax.
Here are things that can impact the 5 senses for a better night’s sleep:
Touch- We will always speak on safety first (Please remember that at 12 months is when the American Academy for Pediatrics (AAP) suggest a blanket be introduced), and the great thing is that there are many safe and comfortable options for your baby to sleep in to keep their bodies at the right temperature for sleep. If you are at all worried about them being too cold or hot, here is a great dressing guide and if you yourself are overwhelmed with which swaddle or sleep suit is best for them, a comfortable baby sleeps better.
 As little ones grow up and out of sleep sacks and swaddle and past the age of 1, blankets and cuddly stuffed animals can be the reassurance they need. The right bed, pillow, blanket, sleep sack, etc. can help set the right environment for sleep, but we can’t think that if we just have this wonderfully reviewed new item it will solve all of their sleep problems. Sleep is a puzzle, and when you miss a piece, well the picture isn’t complete. But as we engage all the senses and consistently provide gentle guidance into sleep, sleep comes.
Taste-Like I said, a comfortable baby simply sleeps better, and part of being comfortable is a belly that is nicely digesting the food from the day. An infant for the first year of life needs 24-32 oz of milk on a daily basis. Tummy size, tongue ties, spit-up, reflux, and colic can all make this a little bit harder, but we have found that full regular feedings can help the body digest the food in the best way possible. Here is a guide that can show you just how to do that. We take care of our little one’s needs but as they grow and it becomes clear that feeding is a reason to get up in the middle of the night, then we have to adjust.
Though they can’t taste a pacifier it is a tool used through the sense of taste to help our babies calm. Whether you choose to use them or not, kids will use their mouths as a way of soothing themselves; the tricky part is when they need you to put it back in over and over and over. If this is a struggle you find yourself in, playing a pacifier game during their awake windows to help them learn to find their own pacifier and put it in their mouths at night or taking it away entirely giving them space to find their own finger or other forms of soothing can stop the cycle. If you are frustrated with having to get up to put it in their mouths, they are too (that is why they cry) if you want to see the gentle change in this area, you must do the consistent work that it takes so neither of you experiences this frustration again.
Smell- There is nothing like a deep breath of a relaxing smell, and nothing yuckier than a dirty diaper. For this reason, this sense can easily begin to light up all the other senses on high alert if they are not relaxed. I truly value the properties of oils that can help set the mood, so of course, lavender is diffused frequently at our home as well as others like thieves, lemongrass, and peppermint for their own properties. Let the environment your children enter into sleep, be one filled with calm, and when the body can sense that it will find the rest it needs.
See-The stores and internet are filled with things to fill your child`s room with. Many promise to make the room more relaxing, but do not truly deliver. So, blue light-inducing aquariums and mobiles, or any screens, etc. can have the opposite effect you desire. That is why as consultants, as much as it is possible, make the room as dark as you possibly can make it. A pro tip is: If after you have let your eyes adjust to the darkness, you can still see your hand; it`s still too light. With this, we always recommend room darkening curtains, and during travel utilize spaces like closets, even large bathrooms since they don`t usually have windows.
As kiddos grow, darkness can turn from something soothing to something scary. If your toddleréolder child is dealing with being scared of the dark, a nightlight that projects their favorite cartoon character or a salt lamp that dims can be a good compromise to this. Another reason for total or as much darkness as possible is again to lessen stimulation. If your baby can`t see it, then they can`t be stimulated by it.
Hear- Auditory cues are truly such an amazing phenomenon. We have all experienced in one way or another how songs, the sound of someone`s particular voice, and any distinguishable sounds can make us feel and react in certain ways. We love recommending white noise from day one because that is very similar to the sound in the womb. The other great thing about white noise is that it masks other noises that suddenly may occur in the night- dogs barking, fireworks, thunder, someone getting ready for work. If they wake you up, they can wake your baby up, but when there is a consistent sound above that, it is very unlikely that it will bother them. Some families like to listen to music before going to bed, and if it works, I`m for it. The only trouble with music is that speed, tempo, and volume wax and wane instead of being a consistent sound. I love turning on the white noise in the last few steps of our bedtime routine, inside the bedroom, as we change into our sleepwear, read a book and drink milk, as it subconsciously tells our body what is coming next. It is important to take note of the volume level of white noise from day one. The AAP only recommends 50 decibels (as loud as a quiet dishwasher).
Our senses are amazing and we can use them to our advantage to help set the right mood for sleep.