Sleep and Our Genes

Om Mama Collective member, Kelsey Alford, of Nested Sleep shares her insight on what we actually can affect (or at least understand!) in our baby’s sleep!

Sleep and our genes: When it comes to nature vs nurture, what can we teach and what is biologically set? 

Many parents that are poor sleepers themselves, either now or as young children, tend to ask me “is my baby destined to be a poor sleeper too?”. The soon to be grandparents may make a comment like “yup I could only hold you as a baby to sleep so I’m sure your baby will be the same way!”. I’m here to tell you that while some sleep aspects can be genetic, teaching your baby to sleep well is a habit you most certainly can impart to the newest family members!


Scientists have identified several genes involved with sleep and sleep disorders, including genes that control the body “clock” genes or our circadian rhythms and the timing of sleep. The circadian rhythms generated by our internal biological clocks vary from person to person; most clocks run slightly longer than 24 hours, while some run slightly shorter. This is why some people tend to be more alert at different times of the day compared to others. 


Now, for infants their circadian rhythm is not yet developed until closer to age 2 months. Infants are not morning birds or night owls as the area of the brain, the pineal gland, that controls the release of melatonin is not yet mature. Some ways to help support a well developed rhythm for a baby are to expose to outside light and noise during the daytime, especially in the morning. Try going for a short walk or if it’s one of those days when leaving the house seems impossible just curl up in a chair but the window! Find more newborn sleep tips here!

For older kiddos here are some tips that can help keep them on track: 

  1. Use morning light– Take your toddler outside early in the morning or make sure to open up those blinds early in the day. 
  2. Avoid electronics before bed– Sure movie nights once a week are ok, but in general try to have the screen time be earlier in the day and shut down the screens about 90 minutes before bedtime. 
  3. Adjust bedtime incrementally– Even if your goal bedtime is 7pm, but your kid isn’t falling asleep until 9pm then you need to start a bit later and then move it earlier 15 minutes at a time until you reach the desired bedtime. 
  4. Keep your child on a regular schedule– studies show that kids with regular bedtimes have better behavior, social emotional regulation, retain information easier, and even are less likely to be obese later in life. 


Good sleep habits can be learned at any age! It is never too late for sleep education and teaching. I work with children from birth through age 18 years. If you need 1:1 support I am always here to help guide your family to better rest!

Sleep well, 

Kelsey Alford


Om Mama Co members get $50 off the newborn package and $100 off any virtual or in-home sleep consultation sleep packages! Check them out here

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