Does sleeping outside lead to better sleep in babies?

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Imagine going to a cafe on a given day, peacefully sipping your coffee, and then noticing a bunch of babies outside—casually chilling in their strollers while their parents are indoors. While this may shock some, if you’re in Denmark or any Nordic country, this is a common sight. Not to mention, a healthy practice.

According to Nordic parenting philosophy, “fresh air is good for babies.” Turns out, research also points out that fresh air and sunshine can help babies sleep better. It also helps in regulating melatonin for infants.

Read more about our expert-backed answers to how sleeping outdoors is related to better sleep in babies.

The Danish TikTok: Do Danish babies sleep outside?

Yes, Danish babies do sleep outside. However, people don’t leave their babies completely unsupervised. They often have baby monitors fitted inside the strollers to keep a constant eye on them, along with thermometers to keep track of the temperature.

Interest in this topic recently re-emerged after Annie Samples, a Denmark-based American content creator and mom of four, shared a video explaining the Danish sleep practices of letting babies sleep outdoors in their strollers. The video went viral, surpassing over 13 million views on TikTok.

The video also garnered mixed reactions—from surprise to shock. Those from the United States were particularly astounded by the practice of leaving babies alone in their strollers outside with no supervision.

Why do Danish babies sleep outside?

Danish babies sleep outside to benefit from the fresh air, exposure to natural light, and the belief that it enhances their overall well-being, strengthens their immune system, and promotes better sleep patterns.

What’s the relationship between baby sleep and the outdoors?

A study describes parents’ opinions about their children sleeping outdoors during the Finnish winter and why this practice is prevalent there. Some of the benefits of having your baby sleep outdoors are:

  • Better naps: Napping outdoors increases the quality of babies’ naps. The colder outdoor air helps in prolonging their sleeping hours.

  • Immunity: It’s a common misconception that cold air causes infections. In reality, bacteria and viruses cause infections. If your little one stays indoors when it’s cold, the same air circulates throughout the house, increasing the risk of spreading the germs. When babies nap outdoors, they may have fewer colds and higher immunity. 
  • Improved circadian rhythms: Spending more time outdoors in the natural sunlight will help your baby establish their circadian rhythm faster, leading to improved sleep cycles.
    A 2004 study found that babies who spent more time in the sunlight slept better than babies who didn’t. When babies get sufficient sunlight exposure during the day, their bodies will produce melatonin at night, which will help them fall and stay asleep.
  • Ability to nap anywhere: The environment outside—the chirping birds, the sound of the breeze, the rustling of leaves—all helps your baby to fall asleep faster. It also encourages them to notice their surroundings and fall asleep to nature’s sounds. Eventually, they’ll form a habit of being able to sleep anywhere as they start associating external stimuli as a cue to fall asleep.
  • Boosts cognitive development: When your little one is sleeping outdoors, they take in a lot of sensory stimuli like the warmth of sunlight, the sound, and feel of the wind, the sounds of people talking on the streets, etc. Your baby’s brain will process all this information, creating new neural pathways to process all the incoming information, boosting their cognitive, motor, and language abilities.

It’s important to keep in mind that irrespective of where your baby sleeps, you should follow the AAP’s safe sleep guidelines.

FAQs

Q: Do babies sleep better if they go outside?

A: Yes, babies who spend time outdoors, sleep better at night. Natural light has a positive impact on the circadian rhythm of the baby.

Q: Does fresh air make babies sleep better?

A: Yes, babies who spend time in the fresh air, sleep better.

Q: Do danish babies sleep outside?

A:Yes, Danish babies often sleep outside as it is a common practice in Denmark.


Q: Why do Danish babies sleep outside?

A: Danish babies sleep outside to benefit from the fresh air, exposure to natural light, and the belief that it enhances their overall well-being, strengthens their immune system, and promotes better sleep patterns.

Q: What are some precautions to take if my baby is sleeping outdoors?

A: When your baby is sleeping outdoors, it’s important to take certain precautions such as providing adequate sun protection, using a safe and comfortable sleeping surface, ensuring proper ventilation, avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures, and keeping a close eye on your baby at all times to ensure their safety and well-being.

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Sources:

  1. Outdoor naps in winter. NIH. 2008. “Children sleeping outdoors in winter: parents’ experiences of a culturally bound childcare practice.”
  2. Daylight exposure to babies. Wiley Online Library. 2004. “The relationship between daytime exposure to light and night-time sleep in 6–12-week-old infants.”


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