Why you should encourage your child to sleep outside

As we enter into spring and summer and the weather becomes warmer, it’s important we get outside more. Outdoor activities are essential to a child’s development and now that the playgrounds and parks are opening there are very little excuses as to why we can’t get outside more. At Child’s Play ELC, one of the things we recommend children and parents try is sleeping and napping outside. 

It may seem bizarre to be promoting such a thing but sleeping outdoors is extremely beneficial to your child’s health and can help develop life long sleeping routines. 

The Benefits

Sleeping outside is heavily researched in young children, showing new revelations about children’s development and sleep behaviours.  

Better Sleep

Children who are encouraged to have daytime naps or sleep outside during the night experience better sleep. Better sleep has been measured as longer and deeper sleep. Children who are napping outside usually are not as restless and don’t wake during their nap outside, which helps children wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go again.  It is believed the cold and fresh air helps oxygenate the brain and release melatonin allowing them to sleep longer and feel relaxed while sleeping.

Nap Everywhere

An added benefit from better sleep is your child will be able to nap anywhere.  The external environments will not only encourage play but will be comfortable and serene environments for your child that will help soothe them to sleep. The ability to nap anywhere as a young child helps promote sleep as a habit for life and you will find your child has less sleeping issues as they develop into an adult.  

Better Immune System 

Often when we are inside air is circulated through air conditioning systems which can help spread germs and often increase the amount of CO2 in a room. Even by opening a window or door, you are helping your child create the needed antibodies to fight off infection. By sleeping outside, children are exposed to fresh air that is rich in oxygen. As noted above this fresher and colder air can help young children feel relaxed when sleeping but one of the best benefits is your child will be sick less. Across the board, studies have found young children who sleep outside take less sick days (especially in early childcare, when they are the most vulnerable). 

Better Cognitive and Physical Development 

Being outdoors means being exposed to different environments which can include risk-taking, problem solving and hours of fun for your child. Sleeping outdoors provides them with a way to feel at home with natural environments and further encourages them to engage in outdoor play.  One of the greatest benefits to sleeping outdoors is the increased brain activity which allows kids to be happier, have better concentration, and an improved memory. All of these benefits improve your child’s cognitive development and allows them to be more explorative and open to learning. By having an outdoor nap during the daytime, your child also will be getting the required Vitamin D which helps grow strong bones and muscles. Even very young children can benefit from daytime naps outside as there are new senses to engage in and it can help them understand the world around them. 

Not a new concept

Sleeping outside is not a new concept. In fact, it is a practised routine for Northern European parents and childcare educators. Young children are often found in small cots sleeping outside during the daytime, even on some of the coldest days in the Netherlands and like countries. But closer to home, we have in the past trialled and supported this concept at Childs Play starting from room 2 onwards. Finally, it is becoming a more common recommended practice in Australia after several trials have found similar results to the Northern European studies. 

Things to consider when sleeping outdoors

When sleeping outdoors, there are some important considerations that need to be accounted for. If they are not accounted for, it could be detrimental to yours and your child’s health. 

  • Comfort: Make sure the outdoor bed is comfortable, add blankets or invest in a sleeping bag to encourage your child to relax in the area you have set up. 
  • Weather: While you can sleep outside during a slight drizzle, there are a few recommendations to consider:
    • Make sure it is low to moderate UV index and place some sunscreen on if it’s above 3. 
    • Don’t sleep outside during hazardous winds, rain, hail and ice. 
    • The best temperatures to be sleeping outside are between 12-31℃, as there are less weather disturbances. 
  • Shaded: Always make sure the area is shaded to reduce the impacts of the harsh sunlight on your child. 
  • Age Appropriate: Sleeping outdoors is recommended for all young children but has the best results in children aged 2-5 years old who have some mobility and have been previously exposed to external environments.

Child’s Play

At Child’s Play ELC, we promote indoor-outdoor play to encourage and stimulate a child’s learning and development. We recommend sleeping outdoors because of its proven benefits to improve a child’s wellbeing and assist in their development. We have many resources available on the benefits of sleeping outside with your child and our educators can provide helpful tips about how to get them to sleep outside. Get in touch with us if you would like to find out more.