Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns: A Guide for New Parents
- Newborns have a reputation for being poor sleepers, but understanding their sleep patterns can help parents better manage their baby’s sleep needs. Here are some key things to know about newborn sleep patterns:
- Newborns sleep a lot, but not always for long stretches. On average, newborns sleep for around 16-17 hours per day, but those hours are often broken up into short naps lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. It’s normal for newborns to wake up frequently throughout the day and night.
- Newborn sleep cycles are different from those of adults. Newborns spend more time in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep than in non-REM sleep. During REM sleep, the brain is highly active and the body is more likely to twitch or move. Non-REM sleep is a deeper, more restful sleep that is important for physical growth and repair.
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- Newborns don’t have a fully developed circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock that regulates sleep and wake cycles. Newborns are still developing their circadian rhythms and don’t yet have a set pattern of when they sleep and wake. This is why newborns often sleep at irregular intervals throughout the day and night.
- The “fourth trimester” can affect newborn sleep patterns. The first three months of a baby’s life are often referred to as the “fourth trimester” because it’s a period of adjustment as the baby transitions to live outside the womb. During this time, newborns may be more wakeful at night and have a harder time settling down to sleep.
- Newborn sleep patterns change over time. As babies grow and develop, their sleep patterns change. Newborns gradually start to sleep for longer stretches at night and take fewer naps during the day. By six months old, many babies are sleeping through the night and have established a more predictable sleep routine.
Understanding your newborn’s sleep patterns can help you better manage their sleep needs and establish healthy sleep habits. While newborn sleep can be challenging, know that it’s normal for babies to have irregular sleep patterns and frequent wake-ups. Over time, your baby’s sleep patterns will start to become more predictable and established.