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.