Images by Saskia Wilson @saskiawilson
New mothers will know how hard it can be to get their baby to sleep. But not many of them do know that the bedding and sleepwear they choose for their baby can affect the amount of sleep they get.
It’s all in the difference between natural and synthetic fibres.
The difference between synthetic and natural
Synthetic fabrics are made by humans with chemical synthesis, as opposed to natural fibres that humans get from living organisms with little or no chemical changes. Natural fibres like silk, cotton, linen, wool and cashmere are generally free from harsh chemicals, biodegradable, breathable, and lightweight - yet still warm.
Alternatively, the benefits of synthetic fibres like nylon, acrylic and polyester is that they tend to be more durable than most natural fibres, and offer practical benefits like stretch, waterproofing and stain resistance (especially enticing when it comes to shopping for your children).
Day-to-day, you likely won’t notice the difference between the two, though it becomes all too obvious when the sun goes down.
Melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you sleepy, is actually produced as a response to a cooling core body temperature. So maintaining a cool temperature throughout the night ensures that you preserve your melatonin levels, and thus the quality of your sleep. Any sudden flux in your body’s core temperature can directly disrupt your slumber.
It’s fine for you and I to simply throw off a layer, but for babies, things are a little more complicated. “The optimum temperature for an uninterrupted night’s sleep is between 18-21 degrees,” details The Sleep Specialist, Olivia Arezzolo.
“Anything above this and your baby will be waking constantly due to the lack of sleepiness hormone melatonin.”
How to ensure a good night's sleep
One of the easiest ways to get your baby ready for sleep is to give them a warm bath right before bedtime. “I recommend this to all of my clients struggling with sleep, as the sudden drop in their body temperature as they emerge from the warm water into a cold bathroom makes them sleepy,” details Arezzolo.
“At the same time, the shower should not be too long or too hot, or you’ll risk raising your core body temperature and therefore find it harder to sleep.” So where does bedding come into it?
“Well natural fabrics are thermoregulatory, meaning they absorb and release heat, rather than keeping it trapped within you. They also soak up moisture should you get sweaty, furthering your capacity to stay cool as a cucumber throughout the night, and waking up super fresh,” says Olivia.
The thing about synthetic fabrics is, they do the opposite of this. This means those polyester sheets you bought on special from Kmart will trap the heat against your baby’s body and block all air ventilation. The risks are that your baby can overheat and thus sweat during the night. Which leads us to the next con for the synthetic party - it doesn’t absorb moisture, so your sweaty, clammy bedding can quickly transform into a hub for bacteria.
Why should you choose cashmere
Cashmere comes from a specific breed of mountain goat in and around Mongolia, and its soft coat allows it to tolerate the extreme temperature variations of its climate. Similarly, a baby blanket woven from cashmere threads will adjust to the climate; keeping your baby cool in the heat and warm in the cold. In fact, cashmere will keep you warm eight times better than ordinary wool.
There is also no risk of ever overheating under a cashmere blanket, as it naturally ventilates, allowing excess hot air to escape. The cashmere fibres also absorb and release water vapor, so any sweat will be zapped up and your baby will stay dry through the night.
Cashmere fibre is a lot like sheep’s wool, but warmer and without the itch. Though it is lacking in lanolin, making it hypoallergenic. This also allows it to be processed without the need for high temperatures or harsh chemicals in washing. All these qualities make cashmere a supreme product for babies.