Updated at: 06-03-2022 - By: Jane Brody

New parents may be perplexed by their infant’s sleeping habits, especially if their lack of sleep is contributing to their confusion. As long as you’re in good health, your sleep schedule is quite regular. An infant’s sleep cycle, on the other hand, may appear to be erratic, with the baby waking up and falling asleep at any time of day or night.

Parents can lessen their infant’s anxiety and frustration by understanding more about their baby’s sleep cycles. A baby’s cognitive development is strongly influenced by the amount of time they spend sleeping. Because of this, parents must be aware of and promote good sleep.

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Baby sleep needs

In order for a baby to thrive, he or she must get enough sleep. It’s true that babies’ sleep requirements differ from those of older children and adults. Your kid may be sleeping more or less than other babies his or her age, depending on how well he or she is doing.

Infant Sleep Cycles: How Are They Different From Adults? | Sleep Foundation

You can frequently tell if your infant is receiving enough sleep based on their mood and overall well-being. What if your child is

  • They may be sleep-deprived and irritable since they are constantly awake and groggy.
  • If they’re alert and happy, it’s safe to assume they’re receiving enough rest.

How baby sleep changes from 2 to 12 months

They get more mature as they grow up

  • During the day, try to sleep less.
  • are able to go longer periods without a nap
  • sleep longer at night and wake up less frequently at night
  • overall, you’ll need less sleep.

2-3 months: what to expect from baby sleep

When a baby is this young, he or she sleeps frequently during the day and night. A typical 24-hour period for most newborns includes 14-17 hours of sleep.

During the first few months of life, infants sleep in 50-60-minute intervals. Each sleep cycle in a newborn baby is made up of periods of activity and peaceful slumber. During active sleep, babies wiggle and groan, and they slumber profoundly during quiet sleep.

Towards the end of every cycle, newborns awaken for a brief period of time. They may snort or sob. They may require assistance in getting to sleep for the next cycle.

A baby’s night and day sleep patterns begin to form at the age of 2-3 months. As a result, they’re more likely to wake up refreshed in the middle of the night.

Around 3 months: what to expect from baby sleep

The sleep patterns of newborns are constantly evolving.

A typical night’s sleep consists of:

  • when the baby is readily roused from a light sleep
  • deep sleep, in which the baby is completely slumbering and completely still
  • the time when a newborn sleeps while dreaming.

The length of a person’s sleep cycle may also increase, which could lead to reduced arousal and resettling over the night. Some babies at this age may frequently sleep for longer periods at night — for example, 4-5 hours on a regular basis.

14-17 hours of sleep a day is typical for most newborns.

3-6 months: what to expect from baby sleep

Most newborns fall asleep for between 12 and 15 hours a day at this stage.

It is possible for babies to begin sleeping for two hours at a time during the day.

At this age, nighttime slumbers become longer as well. By six months of age, some newborns may be sleeping six hours a night or longer.

Your infant will, however, wake up at least once a night.

6-12 months: what to expect from baby sleep

As they grow older, babies experience less sleep. As a one-year-old, your infant will likely sleep 11-14 hours per day.

Get some shut-eye at night

Between the hours of 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., most babies are ready to sleep. Some newborns take longer than 40 minutes to fall asleep, but this is normal.

It’s about this age when newborn sleep cycles begin to resemble those of adults, resulting in fewer nighttime wake-ups. There’s a chance your infant will sleep through the night without awakening or that you’ll wake up less frequently.

It is true that many babies do get up during the night and require assistance from an adult. Some infants do this up to four times a night, on average.

Sample baby sleep schedule and tips for 3- to 6-month-olds | BabyCenter

During the day, take a nap.

6-12 months: other developments that affect sleep

From the age of six months, babies gain a wide range of new talents that can disrupt their sleep or make them more difficult to calm down:

  • When something exciting is going on or they’re in a setting with a lot of light and commotion, babies learn to keep themselves awake.
  • Crawling and dealing with obstacles can occur at the same time. When your baby begins to move around more, you may notice a shift in your baby’s sleep patterns.
  • Even though they can’t see them, babies begin to understand the concept of the world around them. It’s possible that your infant will shout or scream out for you if you leave the bedroom.
  • When your baby is distressed because you aren’t present, you have separation anxiety. Having trouble falling asleep or waking up frequently at night could be a sign that your infant isn’t ready for bed. Eventually, as they grow older, newborns grow out of this fear.

6-12 months: night-time feeding

Night feeding can be phased out at roughly six months of age if your baby is developing normally. You don’t have to eliminate night feedings if you and your kid are happy with it.

You and your baby can decide what is best for you both.

Concerns about baby sleep

Sleep tracking for a week or so can be helpful if you’re worried about your baby’s sleep patterns. You’ll have a better idea of what’s going on if you do this.

A simple chart with a column for each day of the week will suffice. Color the gaps between your baby’s slumbers when you divide the days into hourly chunks. Keep your chart for at least a week.

When the chart is finished, it will tell you things like:

  • how much and when your baby sleeps
  • how many times a night does your child wake up?
  • how long it takes your baby to get to sleep after waking up

What worked and what didn’t work can be documented in this app.

Afterwards, you may compare the data in your chart with the following general information on infant sleep requirements:

  • Who else’s children are their age, and how does yours compare to theirs? If your infant is constantly groggy and awake, it may be because he or she isn’t getting enough sleep.
  • How often does your infant over the age of six months wake up at night? The more frequently you wake up, the more exhausted you may be. Some of your baby’s sleep habits may need to be modified.

Take your baby’s sleep chart with you if you decide to seek expert treatment.

How baby sleep patterns affect grown-ups

Both babies and adults require enough amounts of sleep to maintain health and well-being. Parents of infants younger than six months are more likely than not to wake up at night to feed and comfort their children. After six months, this is still the case for many people.

Baby Sleep Cycles You Should Understand

If they have enough assistance and can get enough sleep at other times, some parents are fine with a lot of nighttime wake-ups. It can have a significant impact on the lives of certain people who have to get up in the middle of the night on a regular basis for a lengthy period of time.

The quality of your sleep can have a significant impact on your health and your mood. In the middle of the day, it can be difficult to provide your kid with positive attention if you’re too tired. In addition, the quality and amount of your baby’s sleep may be affected by your relationship with your kid and the time and attention you provide him during the day.

So if you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s critical that you seek assistance. Asking for aid from close family or friends is a good place to start. It’s always a good idea to speak to a doctor or other health professional if you’re having problems with your mental or emotional well-being because of your sleep deprivation.

How Is an Infant’s Sleep Schedule Different From an Adult’s?

Infants and adults sleep at different times and for different lengths of time. Adults in good health should aim to get at least seven hours of unbroken sleep each night. Newborns, on the other hand, necessitate up to 18 hours of sleep every 24 hours, spread out across many brief intervals. Baby sleeps an average of 13 hours a day by the time they’re six months old, spread out across longer stretches of time.

A good night’s sleep for a baby is a common desire for many parents. The more time a baby sleeps peacefully, the more time parents get to rest. Parents of newborn babies have to understand that their child will wake up frequently during the night. Babies are waking up frequently during the night because their circadian cycle has not yet evolved sufficiently to lead them to be weary at night rather than during the day.

Between the ages of three months and one year, most babies begin to sleep on a more “adult” schedule. Shorter lengths of time are spent sleeping during the day and longer periods of time are spent sleeping during the night for babies at this age.

At the same time, not all babies are able to adhere to a “adult” sleep schedule at the same point in their development. No worries if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night before they’re one year old. It is usual for many babies to wake up at least once a night even after the age of one year.

What Does a Baby’s Sleep Cycle Look Like?

There are often two sleep stages in newborns and four sleep stages in babies older than three months. A newborn’s sleep cycle includes REM and non-REM periods (NREM). During sleep, newborns spend nearly equal amounts of time in REM and NREM.

When a newborn is in “active sleep,” also known as REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, it can be observed moving its arms and legs a little bit. They may twitch or jerk their limbs and fingers, their breathing may speed up, and they may open and close their mouths while their eyes are closed, among other things. During “quiet sleep,” or non-rapid eye movement (NREM), the baby does not move at all.

Around three months of age, a newborn begins to go through the same stages of sleep as an adult. Adults go through four stages of sleep, each with a particular purpose. There are three stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and one stage of rapid eye movement (REM). The following brainwaves distinguish them:

  • alpha waves and low-amplitude mixed-frequency activity are found in stage 1 (NREM 1)
  • Stage 2: K-complexes and spindles in sleep
  • It’s time for delta waves (NREM 3).
  • Stage 4 (REM): alpha and beta waves (similar to waking state)

NREM sleep occurs in the first three stages of sleep. People can be readily awakened from the first two stages of sleep. The third stage of sleep is the deepest state, and it is quite difficult to wake someone up in this condition. REM sleep, the stage during which humans dream, is the fourth stage of the sleep cycle. Adults go through these phases in the same same order as children.

However, children’s “sleep architecture,” or the amount of time they spend in each sleep stage, does not begin to resemble adults until they are closer to 5 years old. In babies, the REM period occurs virtually immediately after they fall asleep rather than at the end of the sleep cycle. Adults, on the other hand, don’t start experiencing REM sleep until they’ve been asleep for about 90 minutes or more.

How do Sleep Cycles Progress as a Baby Grows?

Both REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) phases make up the sleep cycle of a newborn baby. A baby’s first few months of existence are marked by a near-equal split between REM and NREM periods of sleep. Growing children have shorter periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep as their circadian rhythms mature. For the first time, they also begin to experience the three stages in NREM instead of just one. As a baby gets older, its sleep schedule begins to resemble that of an adult.

Parents that are interested in sleep training their infants should become familiar with their baby’s sleep cycle. Due to the fact that most newborns lack a stable circadian rhythm, sleep training is not possible. Because each baby’s development is unique, parents who desire to sleep train may not be able to do so until their child is at least six months old.

Infant Sleep Cycles: How Are They Different From Adults? | Sleep Foundation

How Much Rem Sleep Do Babies Get?

About half of the time, newborns sleep in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage. This means that a baby can experience as many as nine hours of REM sleep each day because they sleep for up to 18 hours each 24-hour period.

The length and frequency of a baby’s sleep cycles fluctuate with his or her daily routine. One aspect of a baby’s sleep cycle that evolves over time is REM sleep. However, there is no one-size-fits-all chart for determining the length of a person’s sleep cycle or the amount of time they spend in REM.

Babies spend less time in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep as they get older and sleep fewer hours. Only about 20 percent of people’s sleep is spent in REM by the time they reach adulthood, a far cry from the 50 percent that infants experience.

What about you? Tips for improving your own sleep

Parents feel the strain of their newborn’s sleep patterns. Pregnancy to the first 12 weeks postpartum, mothers’ sleep habits worsened and continued to deteriorate (Kang et al 2002)—the point at which newborn sleep patterns began to display notable circadian rhythms (Nishihara et al 2000).

When you’re chronically sleep deprived, a 12-week period can feel like a lifetime. Remember to take care of yourself as you deal with baby sleep schedules. Here are a few pointers to get you through the tough times.

1. Appreciate the power of a 30-minute nap

If you’ve accrued a significant amount of sleep debt, a 30-minute power nap may seem inconsequential.

However, recent studies have shown that not all naps are alike. The brain makes naps more restorative than usual when you’re sleep deprived.

The typical anomalies in stress hormone and immune factor chemistry were observed in one study in volunteers allowed to sleep for only two hours at night. A 30-minute snooze corrected all of these abnormalities, though (Faraut et al 2015b).

In a separate study, participants who had to adhere to a two-hour-a-night sleep schedule reported an increased sensitivity to pain. In the end, two 30-minute naps reversed the effects (Faraut et al 2015a).

2. Don’t assume that it’s pointless to lie down if you don’t fall asleep. You might pass into a state of drowsy, semi-conscious sleep — and reap some benefits.

Sleeping when the baby sleeps isn’t an option for you? If this is the case, remember that a few minutes of calm slumber is better than none at all. It is possible to fall asleep without even realizing it if you are lying down with your eyes closed.

Subjects who were awakened from the initial stage of sleep frequently disputed that they had been asleep at all in multiple laboratory experiments (Dement and Vaughan 1999). You may not see an improvement in your reaction times by taking a nap that only comprises of stage 1 sleep, but you will probably feel less exhausted afterward. The second stage of sleep, even for just three minutes, can have a calming influence on the body and mind (Hayashi et al 2005).

3. Don’t play the blame game.

When offered the chance to sleep, you will have a more difficult time dozing off if you spend your time worrying about the circumstance. It’s also irrational: you could be doing everything you can to get more sleep and yet be stuck with a baby who sleeps less than normal.

Touchette et al (2013) found that the amount of sleep we get at night is heavily impacted by heredity and that there is a lot of individual diversity among newborns.

4. Don’t assume that breastfeeding will make you more sleepless than formula feeding.

Researchers found that formula-fed parents slept 40-45 minutes less per night than breast-fed parents (Doan et al 2007).

5. If you are breastfeeding, you are likely to get more sleep if you keep your baby nearby.

Breastfeeding is less disruptive when a mother and baby share a room, according to the World Health Organization. According to a recent study, women who breastfeed their babies while they sleep get greater sleep overall (Quillin and Glenn 2004). Co-sleeping and breastfeeding mothers, on the other hand, slept more soundly than mothers who bottle-fed their infants (Quillin and Glenn 2004).

6. If your baby is asleep, don’t worry about changing diapers.

Your baby will let you know if she can’t sleep because she needs her diaper changed. A squirt of urine isn’t going to rouse her up, either. Babies’ diapers were filled with water in an experiment to see if this would wake them awake (Zotter et al 2007). It didn’t work out that way, though.

7. Get sunlight and avoid artificial lighting at night.

Make sure that you and your kid are exposed to bright light throughout the day. After the sun has set, turn off or dim the lights in your home.

Natural light has been shown to alter the sleep patterns of newborns. But it also helps you maintain your own circadian cycles, which is crucial if you want to prevent insomnia and provide your baby with daytime cues.

8. Let a friend or family member watch your baby while you take a nap, even if this means your breastfed baby will take some meals from a bottle.

For the first three to four weeks of a baby’s life, lactation specialists advise breastfeeding mothers not to bottle feed their infants. In the long run, it is feared that supplemental feedings could reduce a mother’s milk production, which could jeopardize her ability to breastfeed successfully.

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Nonetheless, you must take into account the detrimental effects of extreme sleep deprivation. Parental health suffers as a result of sleep deprivation, including postpartum depression, which is harmful to both the mother and the child. In cases where you’ve exhausted all options, seek assistance.

9. Trust your instincts, and get help when you feel stressed

Speak to your doctor if you or your infant experience any symptoms. Remember to take care of your own emotional well-being as well.

Sleep deprivation can be extremely difficult to deal with, especially if your baby is particularly fussy or prone to crying. Consider reaching out to others if you notice indicators of postpartum stress or postpartum depressive symptoms.

10. Remember that things will get better

It is important to remember that newborn babies have unique sleep patterns and needs. However, about 12 weeks postpartum, things will begin to improve.

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