Baby sleep - newborn sleep guide for parents
Why is sleep so important to a newborn baby? How much should an infant sleep and why does it wake up at night? Check out the most important information about infant sleep, find out what newborn sleep patterns and what are the ways to ensure a good night's sleep for your baby.
It is said that "sleep is good for health", but when it comes to newborns it is a must! While adults rest, regenerate and regain strength during sleep, babies do really hard work while sleeping. Their brain, to be exact! It is the brain that needs the right amount of sleep - and good quality sleep in order to develop properly. Children development depends to a large extent on how the baby's brain matures and develops - both mentally and physically.
Scientists have been studying the effects of sleep on the proper development of babies for years. There is no doubt that newborns’ sleep is extremely important. Research shows that an adequate amount of sleep in infancy and childhood means greater immunity and thus a lower risk of health problems, but also emotional difficulties such as anxiety and depression.
Children who slept better also have higher cognitive scores - better memory and concentration, they process information better and learn faster.
It turns out that an infant's sleep also affects one’s temperament! Babies who sleep well at night tend to be less irritable, have a softer temperament, and adapt more easily to different situations.
Therefore, it is worth making sure that your baby sleeps well and long enough from the first moments of life. This is the best we can do for our baby!
We know for sure that an infant has to sleep a lot in order to develop properly. The only question is how long a newborn's, an infant's and an older child's sleep should last. In other words - what are baby sleep cycles.
Baby sleep cycles - newborn sleep patterns:
- Newborns sleep even 17-20 hours a day
- Babies up to 3 months of age need 14-17 hours of sleep.
- Babies 4-11 months old need 12-15 hours of sleep.
- 1-2 y.o. need 11-14 hours of sleep.
- Preschoolers aged 3-5 y.o. need 10-13 hours of sleep.
- 6-13 y.o. need 9-11 hours of sleep.
This is as far as theories but in reality, every child is different. Some are natural sleepers and spend the first months of their lives napping with a break for feeding and bathing. Others are not fans of long naps and nighttime sleep. We cannot do much about it, but realizing how important babies’ sleep is, we have to ensure proper sleep environment.
With time, a newborn's sleep periods shorten in favor of activity time. A baby becomes curious and slowly gets to know the world. One begins to see more and more, distinguish between voices and smells, and become interested in toys. It is also a sign that baby’s brain is developing intensively. It is worth remembering that although a baby already sleeps less and less, his sleep should be good and efficient to regenerate. Sometimes it is worth considering to try baby sleep training.
Some babies sleep continuously for several hours, other start moving in their sleep as soon as they fall asleep, moving their eyeballs and waking up every now and then. Why is that? How soundly your newborn sleeps, depends on sleep phases one is in. Interestingly, newborn sleep phases have a completely different pattern than those of an adult. However, both children and adults go through two types of sleep phases at night:
REM phase is called a light sleep phase. It is a phase of dreaming and eye balls movements.
NREM phase is a deep sleep phase or the so-called restful sleep phase.
Human brain has a slightly different pattern in both phases. This is why babies' sleep phases are different from that of adults. A newborn baby begins his/her sleep cycle with REM sleep - unlike adults. It is during light sleep that blood flow towards the brain increases and the little one's brain centers create new connections. Until the third month, a baby spends half of the time of sleep in the light sleep phase, and premature babies born before week 30 even more than 70% of the time! It takes so long for a baby's brain to make new connections and develop properly.
In the following months, the REM phase time length decreases in favor of a deep sleep phase.
Infant sleep - sleep phases length:
- 3-6 m.o. - 40% active sleep phase with a sleep cycle of about 45 minutes
- 6-12 m.o. – 35% active sleep phase with a sleep cycle of about 50 minutes
- 1-2 y.o. - 30% active sleep phase with a sleep cycle of about 60 minutes
- 2-3 y.o. - 27% active sleep phase with a sleep cycle of about 70 minutes
- 3-5 y.o. - active sleep phase of 20-25% with a sleep cycle of about 70-90 minutes
Why do children wake up? Is sleep training baby necessary? The phases of a baby's sleep help us understand why babies wake up so often when we want to put them to bed after falling asleep on our lap. At the beginning of the shallow phase of sleep, a baby can be woken up by even the smallest noise or movement. It is only after about 20-30 minutes, when the baby goes into deep sleep and it is when the baby does not wake up so easily.
Moving from one sleep phase to another also has a role to play. It is in light sleep phase when the brain somehow controls whether the child's body is fine - whether it feels hungry, thirsty, cold, hot and whether it has enough oxygen. In this phase, a baby can wake up easily, but it is often enough to feel someone's presence to evoke the sense of security and smoothly move into the deep phase of sleep.
Some babies, however, awakened by hunger or in need of diaper change, will not be "deceived" so easily and parents will have to wake up at night for feeding or changing nappies.
Every parent dreams of their baby sleeping peacefully and developing properly. And although each child is different, has its own needs and temperament, from the very first moments of life, we, parents, can make it easier for them to sleep well.
How to do it? The most important things are consistency, patience and rituals! They make life easier for young parents and put the world in order for the child. That is why it is worth trying to organize your day and its day from the first days of a child's life and stick to it consistently.
Although the newborn sleeps most of the day, it has certain points of the day that are worth nurturing. Bathing, feeding and then sleeping at night is the first ritual that we can introduce into the life of a newborn. Sticking to the same times of these activities will make your toddler get used to the division of the day and night faster.
In the incoming months, it is also worth sticking to the regular eating hours and daily naps.
How else to help your baby sleep well? The humming toys make it easier for a newborn to sleep well. myHummy teddy bears emit white and pink noises, sounds that are similar to those a baby heard in mom's womb. The baby remembers them well, so he/she quickly calms down, falls asleep faster and sleeps peacefully. Playing white and punk noises when falling asleep is also a good ritual to get used to. Then, even in situations different than at home, e.g. during a trip or holiday, a baby hearing the humming noises, will know that it's time to sleep.