Why Your Baby Sleeps The Way They Do

Congratulations, your baby is hale and hearty.

However, you constantly worry about his sleeping pattern; he’s barely awake for three hours in a day and sleeps actively for about 18 hours.

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Many women face this same dilemma at one point or another.  

Let us walk you through what you need to know; we are here for you.

Source: Shutterstock

Babies under the age of one are naturally lighter sleepers compared with adults. They spend most of their sleeping time in active sleep instead of quiet sleep.

When sleeping actively, newborns breathe shallowly and move their arms and legs uncontrollably sometimes. In addition to eye movement under the eyelids.

Nevertheless, it is easy to wake a child from active sleep.  As your baby grows, the total amount of sleep gradually decreases, but the length of nighttime sleep increases.

What Are The Common Sleep Patterns In Babies?

1. Birth to 3 Months

  • Newborns sleep on and off through the hours of both day and night.
  • Their total sleep varies; it ranges between 9 to 18 hours daily.
  • They tend to sleep in short stretches because they need to be fed and changed regularly.
Source: Shutterstock

In Addition,

A newborn has not learnt to sleep normally when it is dark. They usually start to learn this rhythm of sleep when they are about 6 weeks old.

You can help your baby to learn to sleep more at night by exposing them to light and playing with them during the day, and providing a dim and quiet environment to aid sleep at night.

2. Three to Six Months

  • At this age, your baby may have 3 separate daytime naps of up to 2 hours each.
  • Most babies will have 14-15 hours of sleep in total a day, with some sleeping up to 8 hours in the night.
  • The amount of active sleep starts to decline and they begin to enter quiet sleep at the beginning of their sleep cycles.
  • At this stage, babies still wake up at least once at night.
Source: Shutterstock

3. Six to Twelve months

  • From about 6 months old, your baby’s sleep patterns will become more like yours.
  • At this age, babies may sleep an average of about 13 hours in total a day. They tend to sleep the longest period at night, averaging about 11 hours.
  • Your baby will start dropping in their number of daytime naps to about 2. Their naps are usually about 1 to 2 hours on the average.
Source: Unsplash
  • In general, babies may wake up less frequently during the night because they don’t need to be fed as often as before.
  • Most babies will wake once during the night and need settling back to sleep. Some will still wake up more often sometimes.
  • At this age, they may begin to worry about being away from their parent or carer. This increases the time taken for babies to fall asleep and may temporarily increase night wakings.
  • Regular daytime and bedtime routines will help your baby fall and stay asleep as normal as possible

4. After Twelve Months

From 12 months, babies sleep patterns are more similar to yours.

As they approach their first birthday; babies tend to sleep longer, wake up less, nap once or twice during the day and sleep more in the night.

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By the time they turn one year old, babies are likely to sleep for 8 to 12 hours at night, waking only once or twice in that time.

Signs of Sleep Readiness in Babies

You can help your baby sleep by recognizing signs that they are tired and ready to call it in.

Your child may show signs of being ready for sleep with the following:

  • Rubbing eyes
  • Yawning
  • Looking away
  • Fussing

In conclusion, babies in their first few months have a different sleep pattern to yours. Understanding their pattern can help you plan your personal routine for the day and plan for their welfare appropriately (meal times, play times etc).

See also: Circumcision in Baby Boys

  • Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Infant Sleep; “What are the sleep needs of an infant?” Accessed on 25th June, 2020 from https://www.columbianeurology.org/neurology/staywell/document.php?id=36578
  • Teng, A., et al. (2012). “Infant and toddler sleep in Australia and New Zealand”. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health,  2012;48:268-73
  • Pregnancybirth&baby.org (2018). Sleep patterns for babies. Healthdirect. Accessed on 25th June, 2020 from https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/sleep-patterns-for-babies