Baby sleep schedules can be inconsistent for the first few weeks, and even months. This can leave parents wondering, how long do newborns sleep?
Newborn baby sleep is typically unpredictable as they can only maintain wakefulness at brief intervals. In fact, a newborn baby spends 70% of their time asleep. Parents often feel tired and unable to adjust to their new schedule, but sleep is incredibly important for infants’ growth and development.
Baby Sleep Cycles
Studies show that babies spend half of their time in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. During this phase of sleep, their brains are incredibly active and forming new ideas. Just like adults, babies spend this time dreaming and consolidating memories for future recall. This can make babies restless and cause them to wake up whining. Over time, however, they will assume a regular rhythm with fewer REM cycles and more deep sleep.
How long do newborns sleep?
A common question on the minds of mothers is how much do newborns sleep? Or, how long should a newborn sleep? These newborn sleep patterns can be erratic for weeks as babies don’t stick to a real schedule.
Usually, babies can sleep between 14 to 17 hours per day, depending on their age. But all babies are different and will have varying needs. Thus, a newborn sleep schedule will vary greatly.
Baby Sleep Guide
As a rough guide, studies have shown an estimate for each age, that can vary up to two hours:
- A newborn baby sleeps for over 16 hours per day, including 3 naps of 7 hours each.
- A 3 month old sleep schedule will typically include 15 hours of sleep per day, with 3 naps of 5 hours each.
- A 9 month old sleep schedule will include around 14 hours of sleep per day, with 2 naps of 3 hours in total.
- A 1 year old sleep schedule will include roughly 13 hours of sleep per day, with 2 naps in total.
Following this period, toddlers will typically sleep for 11-14 hours and preschoolers will sleep for 10-13 hours. After the first two years, the baby’s sleep pattern will become more stable and consistent. Large changes take place during this time and by two years old, the child will only wake up once during the night. At the same time, the total time spent sleeping reduces to 12 hours per day as daytime naps become shorter.
Is my newborn baby sleeping more than usual?
Some parents may worry that their baby is sleeping a lot. Yet more often than not, this is not a problem for early-stage infants. Babies tend to struggle with telling night from day as they are typically driven by their needs. Particularly, newborn infant develops the components of circadian rhythm only postnatally. Studies reveal that the first rhythm to be developed is the one of cortisol at 8 weeks of age, subsequently melatonin and sleep efficiency develop at approximately 9 weeks, and lately, body temperature rhythm and that of circadian genes develop at 11 weeks. For these reasons, a baby will cry at night to express that they need something: food, a diaper change, or even just a cuddle. This time is critical for cognitive growth and skin-to-skin contact stimulates their brain for social and emotional development as well.
When do babies sleep through the night?
While new parents are getting used to the changing sleep schedules of their newborns, they may be asking themselves, when do babies start sleeping through the night?
For a baby to sleep through the night, this typically means that an infant can sleep for 6-8 hours without awakening. As such, there is a perception that babies should be able to sleep through the night by 6 months of age, if not sooner – but this is not exactly correct. A study found that it’s perfectly normal for a baby to have trouble sleeping through the night at 6 months, and even 12 months, without adverse effects on their mental development.
The authors found that at 6 months, 38% of babies wouldn’t make it to the six-hour mark and another 57% didn’t sleep for eight hours continuously either. At 12 months, this measure improved slightly, but 28% of infants still didn’t sleep straight for six hours, and 43% wouldn’t sleep straight for eight hours. Given this high number of infants that did not sleep through the night, there were no associations found between uninterrupted sleep, mental or psychomotor development, and maternal mood. This should not surprise us; sleep duration is a phenomenon closely related to age. Indeed, this factor changes with the evolution of the age of the subject and then stabilises in adulthood.
However, one tip on how to get your baby to sleep through the night is by helping them differentiate night from day. At two months of age, babies can develop this sense and create their own baby sleep routine. We recommend mothers talk to the baby during daytime feedings and less during night feeds. During the day, a bright environment surrounded by the normal noises of everyday activity can help them associate the idea of daytime. Likewise, in the evening, you can get your baby ready to sleep by preparing a calm and dark environment, limiting the noise, and reducing the lighting.
Baby sleep patterns will tend to range from 14-17 hours per day with various stages of wakefulness and frequent naps. Over time, this will stabilise as the baby’s sleep cycle shifts from REM sleep to deep sleep. It may take a while for your baby to sleep through the night and it is very common for infants to have sleep problems. However, these will normally improve by the time the child reaches the age of two. While figuring out your baby’s sleep routine can be a real challenge and headache, ensuring a good night’s sleep is critical for their cognitive development, growth, and memory consolidation. But worrying too much will not do you good either. Instead, enjoy this time with your baby as much as you can, and don’t forget to rest from time to time as well.
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