Having a newborn is a joyful time for new parents, but any parent knows this can also bring frustration when it comes to getting a full night sleep. New babies sleep a lot, about 16-17 hours a day, but only sleep for 2-4 hours at a time. Newborns are brought into the world with no concept of day and night. They spend up to 40 weeks in the womb, which is complete darkness, so when they arrive they sleep at any point in a 24 hour period. This can cause sleep problems and insomnia for parents.
New babies sleep differently than adults. The initial sleep period for an infant is at least 20 minutes or more of light sleep before reaching deep sleep. This is why many babies awaken when they are set down after falling asleep. Unlike adults who have sleep cycles of about 90 minutes, babies’ sleep cycles are only about 50-60 minutes. After 50-60 minutes of deep sleep, they enter light sleep again and are easily awakened due to discomforts, noises, or hunger. If they do not wake up during light sleep, they reach deep sleep again after a period of about ten minutes.
The good news is most babies start to develop more regular sleep patterns by about 6-8 weeks of age and begin to sleep longer periods at night and shorter periods during the day. By about 5-6 months old, many babies start to sleep for even longer periods at night.
A lot of sleep is important for newborns and is one of the most important things for growth and development. It helps babies to grow physically and psychologically. Also, human growth hormone is released during sleep. This is also important for growth and development.
There are things you can do for your baby during the transition from the womb to the outside world. During the first few months of your baby’s life, don’t worry too much about setting a strict routine, but do focus on teaching the difference between day and night. During nighttime feedings and diaper changes, keep lights low and the room quiet, and keep daytime feedings lively.
Try to be patient; babies can sense stress and tell when you’re upset.
Offer a sense of security to your baby, whether it is from a blanket or stuffed animal. This can make babies feel secure when they are not being held.
Babies don’t like cold sheets, so try and keep sheets warm.
Swaddling babies properly can make them feel secure, keep them from waking themselves up from their own startle reflexes, and keep them warm.
Many people believe babies learn to sleep better if you put them to bed sleepy but still awake.
Soothing music or white noise can help put babies to sleep as well.
Since babies nap frequently, let them. Trying to keep them awake so they’ll sleep at night may backfire and they may have a difficult time going to sleep.
If you’re a new parent and struggling to find some time to sleep, there are a few tips you can try. Even if you can’t sleep, just lie down and rest. Don’t stress too much about not being able to sleep.
If you have someone around, ask for help with nighttime feedings. If you breastfeed, pump extra so someone can bottle feed the baby for you.
Try keeping the baby in a bassinet, close to your bed to make nighttime feedings easier.
Try to avoid activities before bed that might keep you awake. For example, don’t have a coffee or use any electronics. Listen to the radio or read a book instead.
Don’t feel the need to entertain anyone that wants to visit. It’s okay to be selective about the guests coming into your home.
Also, keep calm. This won’t last forever.
Author: Kristina Diaz, RRT is a Registered Respiratory Therapist and a health and wellness enthusiast and writer.
© 2020 American Sleep Association.