Everybody knows newborns need to wake frequently through the night to get their milk fix –along with the just-as-important dose of cuddles–but there’s far more to the tiring world of infant sleep than just the night feeds necessity; here’s a few things you probably didn’t know about your sporadically sleeping beauty.
THEIR SLEEP CYCLE IS SUPER SHORT
For the first part of the night, adult sleep cycles range between 70 and 100 minutes. But before you can blink a bloodshot eye – or contemplate it, a baby’s sleep cycle is already halfway to bring over. “It only lasts only about 30-45 minutes,” explains sleep expert and nurse practitioner Mails Moore. “Then the baby will wake briefly and transition to the next cycle.”
NIGHT AND DAY NEEDS TO BE LEARNED
It’s a somewhat unfunny irony of this whole baby business that while in-utero, little ones are lulled to sleep by mum’s movement during the day – then night time comes and the kicks and rib-pokes start…once born, baby has to acclimatise to the reverse – but it isn’t always easy. As a general rule, keep nights dark and free from stimulation…(no matter how cute those midnight smiles are).
THEIR SLEEP NEEDS CHANGE FREQUENTLY DURING THE FIRST YEAR
On average, newborns require 16-20 hours of shuteye per day. This decreases to 12.5-13 hours by 6-months-old. Then, around the year mark, 12-12.5 hours total becomes the standard, inclusive of naps, and extending into the school years.
THEY SEEM AWAKE WHEN THEY’RE SLEEPING
“They move frequently during sleep,” fellow sleep expert and nurse Jennifer Gingrasfield explains. “They smile, chew, cry out, suck, twitch, and even open their eyes.” It’s a freaky experience the first time you notice your kiddo can catch zzz’s whilst simultaneously keeping a watchful eye on you – or chuckling at some secret joke; but it’s all signs of a busy brain unwinding into healthy REM sleep.
Both Moore and Gingrasfield emphasise the importance of consistency when it comes to developing healthy sleep habits for your baby–with regards to routine, not schedule. Stick to the same soothing sequence of events at bedtime, but don’t panic or force the issue if bubs has other plans; sleep regressions, sickness, separation anxiety, and changing sleep needs will regularly trip you up if you’re inflexible with your expectations of what is normal for baby behaviour. And, as always, keep your tot in the same room as you (for both naps and night sleep) until at least 6 months to prevent the risk of SIDS.