Newborn Sleep Cycles: Why Newborns Are Light Sleepers
When adults first fall asleep, we pass through a couple of light sleep stages, and then plunge into a bout of deep sleep.
Afterwards, we switch into REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, a sleep stage famous for its association with dreaming, and the loss of muscle tone. We dont move much during REM.
When REM is over, we either awaken, or return to light sleep and begin the cycle again. For the average adult, a single sleep cycle lasts about 90-100 minutes. We may partially awaken many times during the night. But were more likely to wake up all the way during transitions between stages, during light sleep, and during REM.
Newborn sleep is also characterized by sleep stages and cycles, but there are crucial differences.
First, babies typically begin their sleep bouts in the newborn equivalent of REM .
Second, newborns in REM dont usually experience muscle atonia.
Unlike us, they may thrash around, stretch, twitch, and even vocalize. The results can fool parents into thinking their babies are waking up, when they are actually experiencing normal REM sleep.
Third, newborn sleep cycles are shorter around 50-55 minutes for the average infant and REM makes up a much bigger proportion of sleep.
Its not unusual for newborns to spend more than half their total sleep time in REM . Indeed, several studies suggest that, over the course of a 24 hour day, some newborns spent may spend as much as 75% of their sleep time in active sleep .
How To Help Newborn Switch Days And Nights
How to help newborn switch days and nights Reversing a Newborns Night-and-Day Confusion Step 1:. How do you know if your baby has any day/night confusion? Well, if your newborn is waking more often or awake. Step 2:. Wake your newborn during the day for feedings! Take this time to make sure they are awake and alert by changing. Step 3:. .
So How Do I Help My Baby Differentiate Between Night And Day
Its all about making night and day very different experiences for your baby. If, say Mandy, you immerse your baby in the hustle and bustle of normal life, you help your baby understand that nighttime is for being quiet, and daytime is when we chat and see people and visit places. Spend plenty of time interacting with and stimulating your baby during the day, she says. And, to help set up his or her body clock, take your baby outside for fresh air and daylight every day.
And, if you do this, says Mandy, the results can be pretty impressive. By the age of 1 month, most babies are sleeping for about 6 or 7 hours during the day and 8 or 9 hours a night. But, says Mandy, by 3 months, a baby who has been taught that night-time is for sleeping is likely to sleep 10 to 11 hours at night and around 4 hours in the day.
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Identifying Your Babys Sleep Habits
If you want to phase out your babys sleep habits, the first step is to work out what they are. For example, to settle for sleep your baby might need:
- a dummy
- music or a mobile above the cot
- breastfeeding or bottle-feeding
- cuddling or rocking
- a particular place in your home, like the family room.
When you know what your babys sleep habits are, the next step is to work on phasing them out. There are tips below for different baby sleep habits.
A positive bedtime routine helps your baby settle to sleep.
Week 4 The Of Newborn Sleep Schedule
Now that both you and baby are good and used to one another, its time to find a mutually beneficial routine and get your newborn on a schedule.
A routine that serves the needs of your infant for nourishment, sleep, and lots of mommy bonding.
Have Regular Feedings In The Day
Waking baby up regularly at 3 hour intervals in the daytime will help with day/night confusion.
Be sure to stick to your 2.5-3 hour routine in the day as closely as possible .
Work to keep baby awake for feedings so she gets full meals all day long.
When you focus on eat, you are working to get a full feeding. You are making sure baby gets enough calories in the day to not need them at night instead.
When Will My Baby Sleep Through The Night
Experts say that babies are capable of sleeping for an 8 to 12 hour stretch by about 6 months old. Wed put the emphasis on word capable with this one because, although they may be capable of sleeping that long by then, we know plenty of 6 months old who absolutely dont.
Saying that, if you lay the groundwork for distinguishing night from day, youll definitely help your baby sleep better at night even if its not for quite as long as you really wish.
Also Check: How Many Hours Should A Newborn Sleep At Night
Learn How To Get Your Newborn To Sleep
Have a new baby or expecting one soon? Grab my Newborn Sleep Program. Its 8 short videos and 25 cheat sheets of newborn sleep tips and tricks to get your new baby sleeping well. The Newborn Sleep Toolkit is full of graphics and easy-to-read info and is perfect for exhausted new parents! Get it here.
How To Keep Your Light Sleeper From Waking Up All The Way
1. Dont rush in the moment you think your baby has awakened.
As noted above, babies experience frequent arousals, but that doesnt mean they are doomed to wake up all the way every few minutes. Babies often jerk, sigh, or vocalize during partial arousals. If you avoid stimulating them during these moments, they may go back to sleep on their own.
2. Tank up the baby before you go to sleep.
Whether you breastfeed or bottle-fed, try to give the baby an especially large meal before your own bedtime. This will encourage your baby to sleep longer. To learn more about this approach, see this Parenting Science guide to opens in a new windowDream feeding.
3. If you feed your baby formula, try to find one that includes DHA.
DHA is a fatty acid found in fish oil and other dietary sources. Its important for brain development, and may play a role in shaping sleep patterns as well.
In one study, children who consumed low levels of DHA had reduced amount of slow-wave sleep . In another study, pregnant women with higher blood levels of DHA gave birth to babies who spent more time in quiet sleep .
DHA is found in breast milk, so its plausible that boosting a nursing mothers DHA intake could improve a newborns sleep patterns. If you use formula, it seems like a good idea to find a baby formula that contains DHA.
4. Check out my article on opens in a new windowbaby sleep aids.
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Why Does My Baby Wake At Night
Even a baby who has been sleeping through the night will sometimes wake in the wee hours, just as adults do. Some babies may call out or cry in the middle of the night, then calm down when mom or dad enters the room. This is due to , a normal stage of development that happens during this time.
Give your baby a few fussy minutes before you respond. After seeing that everything is OK and reassuring your baby without taking your little one out of the crib, leave your baby alone to fall back to sleep.
Remember: Cuddling, feeding, or talking when your baby wakes up may prompt your little one to wake regularly for this attention.
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How To Fix Day Night Confusion Quickly
Again, its perfectly normal for babies to wake at night to feed, but you can have babies who wake only to feed and essentially sleep through the feed.
I know. Ive had 5 babies do it and you can too. You may want to use our daily baby logs to help you keep it all straight.
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Reasons Newborn Babies Cry
- They are hungry and need to feed
- They are tired and need to nap. Essentially newborns nap between each feeding. If baby has been up more than 1.5 hours then they are tired, and likely overtired.
- They are physicallyuncomfortable. Baby may have a wet diaper, dirty diaper or be too hot or cold. Generally, newborns need about one more layer than we do!
- They have reflux and its uncomfortable. You will see your pediatrician, of course, for this, then use the information here to keep baby as comfortable as possible until they outgrow this.
- They have colic and/or are letting off steam. Newborns dont usually develop colic until around 6 weeks or so, but some crying is normal with newborns. Its the only way they can communicate. Our job is not to stop their crying as quickly as humanly possible, but to learn to decipher their cries so we can meet their needs appropriately and promptly.
Trust Your Instincts And Get Help When You Feel Stressed
If something feels wrong with you or the baby, talk to your physician. And remember that your own mental health is crucial.
Coping with sleep deprivation is very stressful, especially if your infant opens in a new windowseems to be especially fussy or prone to crying. Watch for signs of opens in a new windowpostpartum stress and opens in a new windowpostpartum depression, and reach out to others for support.
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Feed Unswaddled During Day Swaddled At Night
As I talked about in my post on 11 things you can do now to have a baby who sleeps well for the long run, feeding swaddled at night is key.
If your baby associates swaddle with sleep, you want them to stay in sleepy mode for nighttime feeds.
During the day take off the swaddle so they can feed awake. Or at least more awake.
Ill even strip baby down to diaper if he is nodding off every few minutes and that works a charm.
Being free is associated with daytime and being snuggled is associated with sleep.
A Note On Sleep Patterns And Cycles
Within the first 6 weeks after birth, babies typically take a nap between their 2 or 3 hourly feeds.
For the first three weeks of a babys life, they are relying on maternal melatonin to help them prepare for sleep and their drive to sleep is strong.
Sleep cycles typically last about 45 minutes to an hour for newborns.
0-10 minutes they start to fall asleep, 10 to 20 minutes they are getting into deeper sleep.
20 to 30 minutes they are heavily asleep, 30 to 40 minutes they are coming out of heavy sleep, and 40 to 50 or 60 minutes they are in light sleep and easy to wake up.
This is why if you help baby to sleep by patting or shushing, but only do it for 5 minutes, baby wakes up or cries.
Its because they are not yet in deep sleep.
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Strategy #1 Learn To Spot Your Childs Sleep Cues How To Switch Baby From Day To Night Sleeping
Like the rest of us, your child has a sleep window of opportunity, a period of time when he is tired, but not too tired.If that window closes before you have a chance to tuck your child into bed, his body will start releasing chemicals to fight the fatigue and it will be much more difficult for you to get him to go to sleep. So how can you tell if your baby is getting sleepy? Its not as if your one-month-old can tell you what he needs. Here are some sleep cues that your baby is ready to start winding down for a nap or for bedtime:-Your baby is calmer and less active this is the most obvious cue that your baby is tired and you need to act accordingly.-Your baby may be less tuned-in to his surroundings his eyes may be less focused and his eyelids may be drooping.-Your baby may be quieter if your baby tends to babble up a storm during his more social times of the day, you may notice that the chatter dwindles off as he starts to get sleepy.-Your baby may nurse more slowly instead of sucking away vigorously, your baby will tend to nurse more slowly as he gets sleepy. In fact, if hes sleepy enough, he may even fall asleep mid-meal.-Your baby may start yawning if your baby does this, well, thats a not-so-subtle sign that hes one sleepy baby.
Coping With Disturbed Nights
Newborn babies invariably wake up repeatedly in the night for the first few months, and disturbed nights can be very hard to cope with.
If you have a partner, ask them to help. If youâre formula feeding, encourage your partner to share the feeds. If youâre breastfeeding, ask your partner to take over the early morning changing and dressing so you can go back to sleep.
Once youâre into a good breastfeeding routine, your partner could occasionally give a bottle of expressed breast milk during the night. If youâre on your own, you could ask a friend or relative to stay for a few days so you can get some sleep.
Dont Assume That Its Pointless To Lie Down If You Dont Fall Asleep You Might Pass Into A State Of Drowsy Semi
Too wired to sleep when the baby sleeps? If so, keep in mind that quiet resting is better than nothing. In fact, if you are lying down with your eyes closed, you might be asleep without realizing it.
In numerous lab studies, subjects who were awakened from the first stage of sleep often denied that they were asleep at all . A nap that consists only of stage 1 sleep might not help you improve your reaction times, but it will probably make you feel less tired. And if you manage to slip into the second stage of sleep even for just 3 minutes your nap may have recuperative effects .