Sleeping Like A Baby - Understanding Your Baby's Sleep Pattern

December 14, 2007

Newborn babies sleep differently than grownups do. Not only do they break up their sleep into naps throughout the day and night without any respect for the differences between the two, their sleep cycle during each of those naps is different than ours. Understanding why your baby sleeps the way he does, may make it a bit more tolerable.

Also check out our article on how to prepare the perfect nursery and paint a nusery so that your baby can rest soundly.

Normal Baby Sleep

In the first few months, most babies sleep around 14 to 18 hours a day. This sleep is divided up into short frequent naps, which are interspersed with short frequent meals. Like grownups, babies' sleep follows a cycle of quiet, non-REM sleep and active REM sleep. Babies have shorter sleep cycles and spend more time in REM sleep than grown ups do. You can tell when your baby is in REM sleep by changes in her breathing, rapid eye movement or partially open eyes, changing facial expressions and squirming.

Sleep Benefits For Baby

The way babies sleep seems to promote proper development and even survival. Researchers believe that REM sleep provides babies with visual stimuli while they sleep which promote brain development. As your baby grows up and receives more stimulation while he is awake, his percentage of REM sleep decreases. Your baby is easier to arouse while in REM sleep or while transitioning to the REM stage than while in the non-REM stage. Though this means that there are many times during the night that your baby may awaken for no apparent reason, it also means that a baby in distress can wake himself and cry for help. A baby in deep sleep, who is hungry, or cold or having difficulties breathing, will have a harder time waking up.

Rocking Baby To Sleep

When we go to sleep, we immediately enter a period of non-REM, or quiet sleep. Babies start their cycle with an initial period of REM sleep. Until the baby reaches a stage of quiet sleep, he can wake easily from any arousal stimulus - like a loud noise or going from a your arms to a bed. Because of this, many babies have a hard time falling asleep and are nearly impossible to put down until they are in a state of deep quiet sleep.

Developing Baby Sleep Maturity

The age at which a baby settles easily to sleep and stays asleep longer than a few hours, varies greatly from baby to baby. As babies mature, they begin to fall asleep directly into quiet sleep like we do. Research has shown that some babies do this at 3 months old. Three months is also the time that many babies will have their longest stretch of sleep during the night. By four months old, babies are sleeping less but sleep better. Their developing brains are better at blocking out arousal stimuli. As she gets older, you will be able to do things to help your baby sleep such as create bedtime rituals. For now, try to appreciate that your little one is doing what is best for her development and safety.

 

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