Your Baby’s Sleep Cycles

Your baby may have your eyes or your lips, but when it comes to sleep, the two of you are quite dissimilar.

First, it takes your baby longer to drift into a deep sleep than it does for you. While you might be fast asleep from the moment your head hits the pillow, your baby will first enter a lengthy period of light sleep from which it is easy for him or her to awaken.

Second, though you both cycle between periods of deep sleep and shorter stints of light REM sleep, your baby does so many more times throughout the night. For you, deep sleep can persist up to 90 minutes at a time. For your baby, it may not last an hour. Therefore, much of his or her sleep is comprised of light sleep, often accounting for more than half of their recommended 13-18 hours of shuteye.

As you can imagine, your baby’s sleep is most vulnerable when he or she is in light sleep. Any number of things can cause them to awaken, including hunger, a wet diaper, changes in temperature, an unfamiliar sound, or his or her own startle reflex. Of course, if all is well and your baby is comfortable, he or she might drift back into deep sleep within a few minutes. A reassuring hand or your presence can always help them through this vulnerable period without waking.

While the transition between sleep phases can lead to a harrowing night, this light REM sleep is essential for physiological development, physical well-being and safety. It has even been linked to increased blood flow to the brain, learning and height. Therefore, uninterrupted REM sleep has many benefits.

HELP YOUR NEWBORN SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT

Newborns express their need to sleep by giving several cues; some fuss or cry while some might indicate with gestures such as rubbing their eyes. Experts say it is best to put babies to bed when they are drowsy but not asleep. That way they are more likely to fall asleep quickly and eventually learn how to get themselves to sleep. Newborns can be taught the difference between day and night by limiting the activity levels, surrounding light and noise levels as night time approaches. Some tips to help your baby sleep are as follows:
  • Observe your baby's sleep patterns and signs of sleepiness
  • Place your baby in the crib when drowsy not sleepy
  • Place baby to sleep on his or her back in your favorite swaddle blanket
  • To ensure a safe sleep environment for your baby remove loose blankets or soft items near baby's face or head
  • Add white noise to help your baby fall asleep to familiar sounds in the womb