Typical sleep patterns for newborns
Sleep can be one of the most challenging situations for new parents. Newborns don’t have regular sleep cycles. An average newborn spends at least 16 hours a day sleeping, but they don’t usually stay asleep for more than two hours at a time for the first few weeks. Naps tend to be scattered throughout the day and night in a completely random and therefore unpredictable pattern.
Sleep cycles of babies are a lot shorter than those of adults. The reason for this is that babies spend more time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is necessary for the development of their brain. However, this phase doesn’t last long.
When will your baby start to sleep longer?
By the end of their first month, newborns tend to sleep into longer stretches and if you are lucky, you’ll be blessed with a baby who chooses nighttime as the right time to do so. At this phase, they start having longer periods of deep (non-REM) sleep, and shorter periods of REM sleep.
In any case, regular sleep cycles start when the babies are about 6 months old. According to experts, somewhere between 4 and 6 months most babies are capable of sleeping through the night. However, nearly all continue to wake up at night for feeding.
Establishing good sleeping habits
You can help your baby sleep better by teaching him good sleep habits from the beginning. Here are some things you can try to help your baby (and you) sleep better:
- Know your baby. If you notice any signs of sleepiness, such as rubbing his eyes, pulling on his ear, or being more fussy than normal, try putting him down to sleep.
- Don't wait too long to put your baby to sleep. Most newborns aren't able to stay up much longer than two hours at a time. If you wait longer than that to put your baby down, it will be harder for him to fall asleep. Cranky babies tend to be restless, fight sleep, and wake up early.
- Establish an atmosphere that clearly differentiates night from day. Newborns are known to sometimes mix up their days and nights. Some infants are like night owls, asking to be fed, changed, and entertained throughout the night. So, in order to increase your chances of getting more sleep at night, you can start teaching your baby to distinguish night from day. Make daytime playtime. During daylight hours, when you want your baby to be awake, open your shades and curtains and allow noises around your baby too. Play with him and wake him for feedings rather than letting your baby sleep for long periods during the day. When bedtime rolls around, keep his room quiet and dark. Talk to him quietly and move slowly, and use as little light as possible for the night feedings. This way he'll fall back to sleep easily.
- Introduce a bedtime routine. This can help your baby know when it’s time to sleep. A routine can include a warm bath, reading a book, and singing a lullaby before putting him to bed.
- Use noise strategically. White noise is proven to help babies sleep. Feel free to use white noise apps, streaming lullabies, dishwasher noise, etc. Getting your baby used to noises will help him sleep anywhere and through anything as well.
- Put your baby to bed when he's sleepy but still awake. This way, your baby can learn to fall asleep on his own and not be dependent on you. If he gets used to falling asleep while you are holding or rocking him, it will be harder for him to go back to sleep when he wakes up during the night.
- Call in the reinforcements. Get your partner involved in night duty. Sharing the responsibility will make it a lot easier for you and it also teaches our baby that daddy is there for him too.