Newborn Sleep Patterns
By Jamell Andrews
If you are a new parent, you have probably already realized that your baby needs to sleep a lot. Parents of infants tend to complain quite a bit that they are sleep deprived because they are up all night long with their babies. While this is certainly a normal pattern for parents of newborns, there are some steps you can take to help your child sleep for longer periods of time without waking up constantly.
Understanding infants’ sleep requirements
Sleep cycles for babies are significantly shorter than sleep cycles for adults. Even though you should expect your newborn to sleep anywhere from 14 to 18 hours each day during his first week at home, these hours are not consecutive, nor are they consistent.
The average baby does not stay asleep for longer than two or three hours at a time, with some of them managing to sleep for as much as four hours straight. This means that you, as a parent, wind up losing significant amounts of sleep every night as you tend to your restless child.
The sleep cycles of babies involves much more time spent in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep than adults do. This type of sleep is quite a bit lighter than other types, and as such it tends to be more easily disrupted. This is why people tend to tread softly when they are in the vicinity of a sleeping baby.
The excessive amounts of REM sleep are absolutely essential for the healthy developments that occur in an infant’s brain. Fortunately, by the time an infant is 6 to 8 weeks old, he will start to sleep for shorter periods of time during the day, and will stay asleep for longer periods at night. Most babies will not be able to sleep through the night until they are at least 3 months old, and in some cases the magic age is 6 months.
Establishing positive sleep habits
A great way to gradually get your baby adapted to normal, healthy sleep patterns is to teach him the difference between day and night. While this does require some time and patience on your part, it can be done successfully. In fact, you can begin teaching your child when he is about 2 weeks old.
To have success with this, you will need to keep your baby engaged with activity during the day. Let plenty of light into your home, and do not worry too much about keeping sounds to a minimum. At night, you should not engage your baby in too much activity, and try turning the lights low and keeping noises to a minimum. After a bit of time, he will learn the difference between night and day, and learn that nighttime is for sleeping.
It can also help your child to adjust to more normal sleep patterns if you learn to recognize the signs indicating that he is tired. When you notice these, put him down for a nap. Even if he does not fall asleep right away, he will very likely be sleeping in a short amount of time. Try not to keep your infant awake well past the point when he becomes tired or it will be more difficult for him to fall asleep.