When our first daughter was born almost 20 years ago, sleeper gowns with cinched hems were all the rage. The elastic bottoms were intended to keep the infant’s feet warm while also providing easy access for middle-of-the-night diaper changes.
We would soon find out that no matter how perfect something seems, it may not be right for every child.
Each night we’d put Emma down and she’d scrunch and kick her legs until they found the elastic hole at the bottom and scoot herself until her legs and torso were completely uncovered and then, finally free, she would fall asleep. Briefly. Eventually, she’d get too cold, wake up, and do it all over again. We quickly switched to pajamas.
Most seasoned parents won’t be surprised to learn that we had the exact opposite experience with our younger daughter. We couldn’t swaddle her tightly enough, she always wanted to be as snug and cozy as possible. By that time, we had discovered the ingenious sleep sack and it proved to be the best option for her.
Sleep sacks or sleep bags, basically wearable blankets, help keep babies safely warm throughout the night. We used them throughout Kate’s first year and had them in a variety of fabrics to make sure she was comfortable throughout the change of seasons. It kept her warm without using a blanket, which isn’t safe for babies under the age of 1.
While every baby is unique, it’s important to ensure that your child is sleeping in an optimal environment to make sure they’re safe, and comfortable, and to prevent wakeups. This becomes increasingly important as children get older, become toddlers, and sleep for longer stretches at a time.
Waking up in the middle of the night is no fun for anyone. And after those long months of sleep training, it’s frustrating to keep getting up at night because your kiddo is too cold. If your toddler wakes up often or is having trouble sleeping at night, discover how temperature plays a role in their restlessness and how to keep them comfortable while they sleep.
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Will Your Toddler Wake Up at Night If They’re Too Cold?
The short answer is yes, toddlers will wake up at night if they’re too cold. These interruptions in sleep cycles can cause emotional, developmental, and attention issues, so it’s an important issue to address. The most common time for young children to wake up is between 3-4 AM when the air temperature dips causing a decrease in body temperature.
It’s more challenging for babies and toddlers to regulate their body temperature compared to adults. In fact, they can lose body heat 4 times faster than an adult, leaving them vulnerable to even the slightest shifts in temperature. Once they get cold, they can’t get warmed up again, so they wake up and have trouble going back to sleep.
Let’s take a look at the main reasons why your toddler is too cold at night:
Not dressed warmly enough
Long-sleeved pajamas or rompers on their own might not be enough and can cause sleep troubles. Furthermore, bamboo sleepwear is ideal for warmer seasons, but not great for cold nights.
Overheating, sweating, then getting chilled
So you’ve dressed your child in extra warm clothes and they’re still waking up? They might actually be too warm or not the right fabrics. While putting on extra layers can seem like a good idea, it might be too much.
Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and acrylic aren’t breathable, so they trap heat and put your child in danger of overheating. Too many layers, bulky clothes, and synthetic fabrics can leave your toddler sweaty and damp, then ultimately chilled when the sweat cools.
Room temperature is too cold
Finding the ideal temperature on your thermostat can be a little challenging. And it’s not only an issue of comfort, it’s also an issue of safety. Studies have found that babies who sleep in higher room temperatures have a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS.
Since the risks of SIDS increase in a warmer sleep environment, it’s important to keep the room temperature low enough that it won’t interfere with the child’s ability to wake up when something’s wrong and warm enough that they’re not chilly at night. Therefore, the best room temperature is between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Tell if Your Toddler is Waking Up Because They’re Too Cold
It can be difficult with babies and young toddlers who can’t tell you how they feel. Of course, as they get older and can communicate, you’ll be better able to problem solve. But how can you tell if your toddler is waking up because they’re too cold if they can’t tell you? Or maybe they’re not even sure why they woke up.
Here are a few signs that your child is too cold:
Hands and feet are cold
This is typically a poor indicator of your child’s overall body temperature, but generally, hands and feet should be warm like the rest of their body. In addition, if you see mottling on your child’s extremities or their hands and feet are cold to the touch, you’ll want to add another layer of clothing.
When checking your baby’s temperature, feel the back of their neck with your hand. It should be the same temperature as your hand.
If your child is cold, they can sometimes have paler skin than usual.
When your baby starts sneezing, it’s typically a sign that they’re cold. This is caused by a response that’s connected to the hypothalamus and, in these cases, not an indication that they’re sick.
How to Make Sure They’re Warm Enough at Night in Bed
Luckily, making sure that your toddler doesn’t wake up too cold is largely preventable. Taking a few extra steps at bedtime can help everyone get a full night’s rest.
Here are some ways to make sure your child is warm enough at night:
Layering lightweight fabrics, like a onesie underneath pajamas or using a sleep sack, can go a long way in keeping your child warm (but not too warm) throughout the night. Footie pajamas or socks are also good options for keeping little feet warm.
Keep your baby’s crib by an indoor wall, so they’re not chilled by drafts from a window.
Blankets or duvets
If your child is 12 months of age or older, you can give them extra covers for cold nights.
Set the right room temperature
We’ve already discussed that between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit is a good range. Space heaters, even for daytime use, are not safe or recommended for nurseries or children’s rooms!