Outdoors: Most Natural Way to Transform Your Child's Sleep
Updated: May 21
Like sleep, it's never too late to start getting into healthy habits of getting a daily dose of outdoor time.
How natural light impacts sleep
We all know physical activity is an excellent way to ensure a good nights rest. But did you ever consider that having physical activities in an outdoor setting is that much more beneficial?
Outdoor playtime can, can hugely improve the quantity and quality of children's sleep. It does so by simply exposing them to the sun's natural light which helps with:
Production of melatonin at night
Establish our circadian rhythm (body clock)
Sleep is paramount particularly during childhood years, when mental and physical development grows at an exponential rate. Without proper amounts of sleep, general development, behavior/mood and academic performance suffers. A full article on the benefits of sleep for babies can be accessed here. What if getting your child outdoors and into natural light can help your child get the amount of sleep that they need?
Melatonin and Sleep
Melatonin is a natural hormone the body produces to help us fall sleep. Who doesn't want a baby whose body is actually signalling and helping them to fall asleep at bedtime? And the best part of all, is it is NATURAL! A few hours before bedtime, melatonin begins to be secreted to prime the body to sleep.
The production of this hormone slows down in the early mornings which then prepares our body to wake up. For this reason, you'll find that babies will stir more easily in the early mornings and have difficulty falling back asleep if they lack the sleep skills to do so on their own.
Circadian Rhythm and Sleep
Our circadian rhythm is established and maintained by exposure to light. Natural light is the most effective source of light (as compared to indoor light) that can trigger our circadian rhythm so that wake and sleep times are at appropriate times of the day. When our circadian rhythms functions optimally, it keeps us alert and awake during the day and brings on sleepiness at bedtime.
For this reason, spending outdoor time is recommended especially for newborns who have their nights and days mixed up. Allow your newborn to nap in natural light during the daytime and sleep in a darkened room starting at bedtime.
Babies who have early morning wakings can naturally shift their circadian rhythm with an increased exposure to outdoor sunlight during the day and early evenings. At the same time, parents should still be mindful of sun safety and baby's delicate skin.
Natural Light also Boosts Eye Health
An added benefit of outdoor time is good eye health for children. According to pediatric ophthalmologists, one of the best natural ways to counter poor eye sight in children is outdoor time. And to clarify, a large indoor hockey arena may be going out, but if it's not outdoors, it doesn't count. It's not necessarily the size of the space that helps with improving eye sight but rather a setting that is outdoors where there is natural light exposure. Studies do not indicate the exact amount of time needed outdoors for the eyes to benefit, but light exposure from the sun is key.
Let's get out to play
Like sleep , it's never too late to start getting into healthy play habits of getting a daily dose of outdoor time. Although this usually means parents have to put in a bit more thought for scheduling, but the resulting higher quality sleep and the benefits of sleep itself will be well worth it. If you're local to Vancouver, BC, check out , Jaclyn's Brave & Free Adventures for Vancouver's best parks and playgrounds for impressive updates for the latest and greatest. She is an incredible resource to Vancouver parents and has the best tips for your visits including amenities and accessibility.
I know resolving your child's sleep is not as easy as just getting outdoors to play, but it's a start. If you're struggling to get a kickstart to better sleep, I'm glad to help you through personal 1-1 sleep support. Schedule a call free discovery call to hear where to start.