Nov 18, 2022
Newborns' Sleep Pattern: What To Expect
As the sun sets and the moon rises, a newborn baby drifts off to sleep, unaware of the complex and delicate dance of sleep that is taking place within their tiny body. From the first moment of life, sleep plays a crucial role in a baby's development, providing the necessary rest and relaxation for their growing minds and bodies.
What does a newborn's sleep pattern look like, and how does it change as they grow and develop? Let's take a closer look at the fascinating world of baby sleep.
Newborns' sleep pattern: are there any?
They sleep a lot in their first few weeks
In the first few weeks of life, newborns may sleep for up to 16-17 hours per day, and they may have several brief awakenings during each sleep period. This is because their bodies and brains are growing and developing rapidly, and sleep is essential for this process.
During sleep, the body and brain are able to rest and recharge, and this is especially important for newborns. Sleep helps to support healthy brain development, and it is essential for the formation of new neurons and connections in the brain. It also plays a critical role in the development of the immune system, and it helps to regulate the baby's growth and metabolism.
In addition to the physical benefits of sleep, newborns also benefit from the emotional and social aspects of sleep. Sleep helps to promote attachment and bonding between the baby and their caregivers, and it provides the baby with a sense of security and comfort.
As they get older, their sleep needs will gradually decrease, and they will start to have longer and more regular periods of sleep.
Newborns wake up easily
Newborns are very sensitive to interruptions in their sleep, and they may have difficulty settling down to sleep again if they are awakened. The frequent awakenings and easily arousal of newborns can be challenging for parents and caregivers, and it may require a lot of patience and support.
Putting a newborn back to sleep can be a challenging task, especially for new parents who may not yet be familiar with their baby's sleep patterns and needs. Here are some general tips that may help:
- Make sure the baby's sleep environment is conducive to sleep. The room should be dark, cool, and quiet, with a comfortable temperature and a firm, flat surface for the baby to sleep on.
- Try to establish a bedtime routine that signals to the baby that it's time to sleep. This could include things like giving the baby a warm bath, singing a lullaby, or reading a book.
- Be gentle and soothing when trying to put the baby back to sleep. Avoid loud noises or sudden movements, and try to keep the lights low.
- Try rocking, patting, or gently stroking the baby to help calm them down and encourage them to sleep.
- If the baby is still restless or crying, try offering a pacifier or a bottle of breast milk or formula. This can help soothe them and may make them more likely to fall back asleep.
- Be patient and persistent. Babies often have irregular sleep patterns and may wake up frequently during the night, especially in the early weeks and months. It may take some time and effort to help them settle back to sleep.
Shorter sleep cycles
Newborns typically sleep for periods of 30 minutes to 4 hours at a time, and they may have several brief awakenings during each sleep period. They may also have periods of very active sleep, during which they may move around a lot and make noises.
Newborns have short sleep cycles because their brains and bodies are not yet fully developed, and they do not have well-defined periods of REM and non-REM sleep. The sleep cycle is the pattern of alternating between REM and non-REM sleep, and in adults, the sleep cycle typically lasts for 90-110 minutes. However, in newborns, the sleep cycle is much shorter, and it may only last for 30-50 minutes.
The short sleep cycles of newborns are thought to be important for their brain development, as they provide the baby with frequent opportunities to experience different stages of sleep. During REM sleep, the brain is highly active and experiences rapid eye movements, and this is thought to be important for the development of neural connections and for the consolidation of memories. During non-REM sleep, the brain is less active and the body is able to rest and repair, and this is thought to be important for the growth and development of the baby's body and organs.
As newborns grow and develop, their sleep cycles will become longer and more regular, and they will start to have longer periods of REM and non-REM sleep. This typically occurs around the age of three to six months, when the baby's brain and body are more mature and their sleep patterns become more similar to those of older infants and adults.
When will we start seeing mature sleep patterns in babies?
As babies grow and develop, their circadian rhythms begin to mature and become more synchronized with the external environment. This typically occurs around the age of three to six months, when babies start to have longer and more regular periods of sleep. They also begin to develop a preference for sleeping at night and being awake during the day.
Overall, newborns do not have fully developed circadian rhythms, and their sleep is irregular and fragmented. As they grow and develop, their circadian rhythms mature and become more synchronized with the day-night cycle, and they begin to have longer and more regular periods of sleep.
How to help newborns develop circadian rhythms?
The development of circadian rhythms in newborns is a natural process that occurs as they grow and mature, and every baby is different. However, there are several things that parents and caregivers can do to help support the development of healthy circadian rhythms in newborns and to encourage healthy sleep patterns.
One of the most important things that parents and caregivers can do is to provide a consistent and predictable caregiving environment for the baby. This means establishing a regular bedtime routine, providing a comfortable and supportive sleep environment, and avoiding activities that are stimulating or over-stimulating before bedtime.
It is also important to expose the baby to natural light during the day, as this can help to promote the development of healthy circadian rhythms. This may involve taking the baby outside for brief periods of time, or placing the baby near a window with natural light during the day.
Additionally, parents and caregivers should avoid exposing the baby to bright lights or screens at night, as this can interfere with the development of healthy circadian rhythms. This means avoiding the use of smartphones, tablets, or other electronic devices near the baby's sleep area, and keeping the baby's bedroom dark and quiet at night. Using soft music or white noise to create a soothing atmosphere can help creating a calm and relaxing sleep environment.