Newborn Sleep Patterns: Understanding sleep cycles and promoting healthy sleep

Newborn Sleep Patterns: Understanding sleep cycles and promoting healthy sleep

Understand how newborn sleep patterns differ from adults, and how to help your baby develop healthy sleep habits. Get science-based tips and advice.

Newborn sleeping patterns may appear chaotic at first. Newborns sleep at irregular hours throughout the day and night, often falling asleep for short bursts during both.

As infants grow older, REM sleep will gradually decline over time.

REM Sleep

Sleep is of utmost importance to newborns and babies. It serves to both their cognitive and emotional development, assisting with social engagement and attachment processes, while simultaneously aiding social engagement and attachment processes. Unfortunately, however, sleep remains one of the least studied areas in infant health and early childhood development – partly due to difficulties measuring quality and quantity in newborns – but further research needs to be done in order to fully grasp its significance for infant neurodevelopment. The scientific literature is slowly growing as research progresses on its effects upon neurodevelopment effects of infant sleep on neurodevelopment effects on neurodevelopment effects of infants on neurodevelopment effects on neurodevelopment effects on neurodevelopment as a whole.

Newborns tend to have much shorter sleep cycles than adults and spend a greater portion of time in REM (active) sleep, sleeping for short stretches that often include feedings and diaper changes throughout the night, so their sleeping patterns may vary considerably from those of an adult. Establishing a bedtime routine that limits stimulation in the hour leading up to sleep time and ends with them feeling drowsy but awake is one way you can help them reach the right state for restful slumber.

First stage of sleep cycle for newborns is light non-REM sleep, in which your newborn may wake for any number of reasons, including hunger, wet diaper, change in temperature or their own startle reflex/moro reflex. While they might briefly awaken during this stage, it should quickly subside again afterwards and allow your little one to fall back asleep again quickly.

At first, your newborn may cycle between light non-REM sleep and deep non-REM sleep before progressing to REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep – the latter of which should prove harder for you to awaken than ever. At REM stage, however, their eyes move rapidly under their lids while they twitch slightly – giving rise to its name as “Rapid Eye Movement.”

Studies show that REM sleep is essential to cognitive development, memory processing and emotional well-being in infants – so ensuring they receive enough REM rest is of utmost importance for their growth and well-being.

Babies usually sleep for 12-18 hours per 24 hour period, with approximately half their time spent in REM sleep. As your baby ages, they will spend less and less time in REM and more time on other phases of the sleep cycle; therefore it is crucial that parents understand all forms of sleep their newborn experiences, as this could have long-term implications on both mental and physical health.


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