How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need? (5 Things You Should Know)

How much sleep does my baby need - babe in dreamland

Have you ever wondered How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need And Whether She Is On Track?

A baby’s sleep, unfortunately, sometimes makes new parents sleepless. Every baby is different and has a unique sleep schedule. Hence the guidance for infant sleep is quite loose and provided in the range that varies with baby age. So, no need to fret if your friend’s four-month-old baby sleeps all night, and despite the same age – your baby still wakes up three times a night.

During the first six months, babies don’t have an established circadian clock of sleep and wakefulness. Only with time do they learn a certain rhythm and sleep at certain times of the day and night.

How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need?

Every baby is unique and has a different sleep schedule. The guidance or infant sleep is only indicative and depends on baby age. As your baby gets older, she will sleep less during the day, will be awake longer between the naps, have longer nighttime sleeps, will wake less at night, and overall – will need less sleep. Also, the older the baby, the deeper and calmer she sleeps during the calm phase of her sleep cycle.

1. Baby’s Sleep Is The Basis For Good Development

Babies can sleep either too much or too little. Both of which raise concerns about whether the baby is developing well. After all, hard work is happening in your newborn’s brain, and proper brain development requires good quality sleep.

During deep sleep, their brain releases growth hormones. These hormones are responsible not only for their physical growth but also for their emotional and social skills. 

Several studies have shown that babies with more productive sleep

  • have higher cognitive scores,
  • are less irritable,
  • preserve memory better, which helps them to learn,
  • have a stronger immune system,
  • are more adaptable to many situations,
  • have fewer chances to develop health problems and emotional difficulties such as anxiety and depression

These are all valid reasons to make sure your little one is well-rested!

A great indicator if your baby is getting enough sleep is her mood and wellbeing. So watch out for signs such as lack of interest in people and stimulating things, rubbing eyes, pulling ears, yawing – then the chances are your little one needs more rest.

2. Baby Sleep Cycle Explained

The human sleep cycle consists of two phases:

  • Active – REM (Rapid Eye Movement)
  • Calm – NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement)

These phases pass smoothly from one to the other and when nothing stands in the way.

Several characteristics of infant sleep make it so drastically different from adult sleep: the younger the infant, the more time it spends in the active (light) sleep phase compared to the restful (deep) sleep phase.

What does it matter? Sleep in the active phase is very light, and it is easy to wake up from it. Therefore, the younger the child, the longer it is necessary to wait before trying to put it back after falling asleep – for younger infants, it is at least 20-30 minutes. If you attempt to change the position or location of your infant while she is in the active sleep phase – you are doomed to failure.

How do I know if my baby is still in active sleep? As the name suggests: after its activity. In this state, the child moans, purrs, breathe quickly and anxiously, smiles, wrinkles his forehead, moves his eyeballs, fingers, sucks a breast or a nipple. Before putting her down, it is worth doing a heavy hand test – if we raise the little one’s hand and it falls limp, it is a sign that the child is already in the quiet sleep phase, and you can try to transport her to another place or sneak out unnoticed.

The ratio of the length of the active phase to the quiet phase changes as the baby’s nervous system matures. Premature babies born before 30 weeks of gestation spend more than 70% of their time in active sleep, while full-term newborns already around 50%. The older the child, the faster she can be moved when falling asleep on the arms or in the car seat because she goes into deep sleep faster.

The duration of the entire sleep cycle increases as your little one gets older and reaches parameters similar, though not identical, to adults around the age of three.

Do you understand now why the older the child, the less he wakes up? It is due to 2 factors:

  • Longer sleep cycles (i.e. less awakening moments of transition from one phase to the next)
  • Shorter time spent in the light sleep phase (i.e. the one in which the softest sound or other discomfort disturb the sleep)

3. Baby Sleep Needs: 0 – 12 months

How much sleep should my newborn baby have?

The below guide will indicate what to expect and typical sleep habits in different ages of your baby.

The below baby sleep cycle indicates what does normal sleep look like in babies:

NEWBORN TO 6 WEEKS3 - 5 naps, each 15 min - 3h long30 min - 1h2 - 4hUp to 18h
2 - 3 MONTHS3 - 4 naps, each 30 min - 3h long45 min - 2h3 - 6h14 - 16h
4 - 6 MONTHS3 naps, each 1 - 3h long1.5 h - 2h4 - 8hUp to 15h
6 - 10 MONTHS2 - 3 naps, each 1 - 3h long2 - 3h5 - 10hUp to 15h
10 - 12 MONTHS2 - 3 naps, each 1 - 2h long2.5 - 3.5h 7 - 12h11 - 14h

4. Babies Wake Up Frequently – Is This Normal?

It is worth remembering that the number of hours slept is one thing, and the number of hours a child wakes up is another.

Newborns are most likely to wake up because their sleep phases are still very short. So for newborns, each phase lasts no more than 50-60 minutes (while the adult sleep phases – twice as long) but gradually extend.

A two-month-old baby should sleep for two hours at a time.

Another case is premature babies who wake up more often because their stomachs are so small that they cannot fill up. That is why hunger interrupts their sleep, sometimes even every hour. It is similar with children who especially need the closeness and warmth of their mother, so sometimes it is worth taking them to bed to ensure a long and peaceful rest.

5. Biological Clock Of Your Baby

A newborn can sleep at any time of the day or night. 

The main reason is the lack of melatonin, which the body produces only from about four months.  Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the human body clock (circadian rhythm) and controls her daily biological functions such as feeling hunger, sleepy, active or when she wakes. Its secretion depends on the presence or absence of daylight: it gets released when it gets dark, making the person feel sleepy at night.

The lack of melatonin means that the child does not distinguish between day and night – she sleeps when she is tired (in a one-month-old baby, it usually takes place after about 1.5 hours of wakefulness). Therefore, the newborn needs to learn about the rhythm of the day and night.

A good sleeping routine will be helpful in this, i.e. activities repeated every day that will accustom her and teach her the sequence of events, walks or other daily activities. Moreover, a solid routine will provide your baby with a sense of comfort and security as she learns to anticipate what to expect next.

Final Few Lines

If your baby sleeps shorter than recommended but still develops well and functions well during the day, she does not meet the criterion of sleep disorders. People with low sleep requirements (which are genetically determined) are called short sleepers. In adulthood, sleeping up to 6 hours a day, they do not complain of drowsiness, malaise or any other problems related to sleep or functioning during the day (I am jealous).

If the child’s sleep is too short and negatively affects her functioning, development and health, you most likely need consultations with a paediatrician or other child health professional, depending on the suspected somatic background of sleep disorders.

I hope you found the above information helpful, and I would be happy to hear your feedback – please feel free to comment below.

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  1. Thanks for your advice Dorota. We are now waiting for our second baby and it is handy to have your tips in case we need it

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