Do Babies Sleep Better In Sub-Freezing Temperatures?

Most parents in the U.S. would never consider leaving their slumbering babies outside in subzero temperatures, but Nordic parents don't think twice about it.

Never mind the fact that temperatures in the region easily drop to -5C (23F): Nordic babies asleep outdoors in their carriages, blustery weather and all.

Should a mother of an infant visit Nordic countries, she may be asked if she would like her baby to take his nap in the garden as opposed to the bedroom, says BBC News. 

Stockholm mother-of-three Lisa Mardon has been setting her sleeping babies outside in the cold since they were born and did so because she felt it was important to get them in the "fresh air" as soon as possible.

"Especially in the winter when there's lots of diseases going around ... the kids seem healthier," says Mardon.

Mardon was similarly put outside to rest when she was a child. And her father before her? As a baby, he too received the same outdoor subzero sleep treatment.

"Nowadays most day-care centres in Sweden put children outside to rest," says the BBC's report. "It's common to see rows of prams lined up in the snow at nap-time, with youngsters fast asleep inside."

More than mere tradition, keeping their babies asleep outside in such frigid weather may actually be the right thing to do, health-wise. Keeping babies inside all together exposes them to each other's infectious germs, first of all. Outside, in the "fresh air" (cold or no), there's less of a chance for such exposure.

Many Nordic region parents, such as those surveyed in Finland, also strongly believe their babies sleep better in the cold.

"Probably the restriction of movements by clothing could increase the length of sleep, and a cold environment makes swaddling possible without overheating," says Finnish researcher Marjo Tourula. Tourula's studies showed that -5C seems to be the optimal temperature for babies to sleep under, with some parents going as far as leaving Junior getting his 40 winks at -30C.

Slightly more skeptical pediatrician Margareta Blennow notes that reports garnered from Sweden's Environmental Protection Agency showed that some pre-schoolers who slept outside were less apt to miss days of school because of sickness. Whereas other studies, Biennow says, showed there was no difference at all.

Martin Jarnstrom, head of one of the Ur och Skur group of pre-schools, concurs that sleeping outside in the cold may be a good thing for baby's nap, as long as he's properly attired.

"It's very important that the children have wool closest to their body, warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag," says Jarnstrom.

"There is no bad weather, only bad clothing," as the old Swedish saying goes.

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