UHS nursery finds white noise helps children sleep for longer

Taplins article banner

Trust Taplins Childcare, a nursery for children whose parents work at University Hospital Southampton, has improved babies’ sleep through the innovative use of white noise.

When the nursery’s new intake of babies seemed to be finding it difficult to settle in, senior nursery manager Anna Rixon and her team identified lack of sleep as a possible cause.

Parents noted that there was a significant difference in the amount of sleep their children usually had at home compared to at nursery, where it is harder to keep the environment quiet.

They reported their children fell asleep on the journey home from nursery and that their tiredness from lack of sleep at nursery impacted on the opportunity for their parents to spend time with them at the end of the day.

The team at Taplins had also reported tiredness had a negative effect on the mood of children at nursery and meant that they were less willing to take part in activities.

Once lack of sleep had been established as the reason for this, the team investigated how much sleep they were getting at home and at nursery.

They found that, on average, children spent 90 minutes a day sleeping at home but only an hour at nursery. For children who attended nursery full-time, this meant losing the equivalent of two daytime naps every week.

To find a solution, the Taplins team turned to research on white noise; studies have found that playing the noise, which is a sound made up of many frequencies played simultaneously, allows the brain to focus on that rather than any other sounds in the room, allowing for less disturbed sleep.

Since introducing white noise via a baby monitor to the room where the babies sleep, the Taplins team has seen a marked improvement in the amount of sleep children are getting at nursery and in their overall emotional wellbeing.

While how quickly a child settles to sleep has not changed, how easily children can go back to sleep if disturbed – for example by another baby crying – has improved significantly.

White noise is now played in all of Taplins’ sleep rooms, resulting in an average of two extra hours of sleep per child per week.

“Playing white noise in our sleep rooms has helped the children sleep better and for longer, making them happier at nursery and at home and improving their ability to learn,” said Anna.

“They are also less tired when they get home, which means they can spend better quality time with their families.”

The implementation of white noise has been so successful that some parents have also added it to their children’s sleep routine at home.

Posted on Thursday 4 July 2019