Baby Sleep Cycles

Babies are not born with four sleep cycles like adults.  Adults will cycle through from the three stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep during the night, in cycles that can last up to 90 to 120 minutes per cycle.  The first stage of NREM for adults is falling asleep, the next is when the brain starts to produce sleep spindles, the third is deep sleep, the final stage of REM sleep is when you experience dreams and your brain is more active. 

 

Babies & Adults Have Different Sleep Patterns

 

When babies are born they only have two sleep cycles and their cycles are much shorter at lasting maybe 40 to 60 minutes at a time.  So as infants, babies spend about 50% of their sleep cycles in rapid eye movement sleep.  Your baby’s sleep patterns will develop over the first year of their life making them have a more adult sleep pattern. 

These changes in sleep patterns can affect how your baby sleeps either during the day or during the night. A baby is developing rapidly.  Lots of milestones and development can affect a baby’s sleep.  This is not a bad thing, this is good that your baby is developing new skills and growing as they should.  Some main milestones your baby will learn their first year or so of life are rolling, sitting, crawling, pulling up, cruising, and walking. 

 

New Skills Affect Sleep

 

While your baby is learning these fun new skills they may hit a sleep regression.  Where they don’t sleep as soundly through the night, wake up frequently, or need help falling back to sleep if they wake up.  Even wonderful sleepers can suffer from sleep regressions. 

The main cause of the sleep regression is that your baby is trying to practice their new skill they are working on in their sleep.  So they may startle themselves awake by all of a sudden being rolled over, or up on their knees ready to crawl away.  If your baby doesn’t know how to get themselves back down to lay down to sleep they may fuss or cry for help.  

Babies while they are in REM sleep they may grunt or wiggle a lot since this is when their brains are active.  During their NREM sleep they are peaceful and this is their deepest sleep.  How long they spend in each part of their sleep cycle depends on how old they are.  This is because at about four months their sleep pattern changes, and they will start to get sleep cycles that reflect more like adults.   Their REM sleep will change from about 50% of their sleep to only 25%.  This may sound like a good thing, but this causes them to be in light sleep during more of their night time sleep causing the chances of them waking up to increase.  

 

Tips To Help Your Baby Sleep

 

When navigating through these sleep regressions it can be difficult on parents as well.  When your baby isn’t getting good sleep, chances are you aren’t either.  There are some things you can do to try and ease the frustrations of the sleep regression. 

  • Try picking up on your baby’s sleep cues.  Whether they start to get fussy, or they rub their eyes. 
  • It can be helpful to lay your baby down while drowsy and not completely asleep.  This may help them fall asleep faster, and help them to learn to fall asleep on their own. 
  • Another thing that can help you baby stay asleep or know that it is sleep time and not day time is to keep the nursery dark. 
  • Don’t withhold food though, while going through sleep regressions your baby may be going through a growth spurt as well.  Feed them as much as they seem to need. 
  • While they are learning a new skill it is important to give them a lot of time during the day to practice it.  So if they are learning to roll over extra tummy time can help them feel like they don’t need to practice as much during the night.
  • Make sure that you get help when you need to.  

 

Expect Changes

 

As your baby gets older their sleep will change to naps less often during the day for longer periods of time and longer sleep periods at night.  Only about 50% of babies at 4 months sleep for five hour chunks.  Every baby is different.  Every baby will learn to roll over, crawl and develop gross motor skills at different times, so if your baby develops a skill earlier then your sleep regression may start early and last longer.  It all depends on your baby.  Don’t get too frustrated during these regressions they will pass with time.  Some babies can miss the sleep regressions altogether but there is no exact way to prevent them. 

Every baby’s sleep is different.  So navigating through sleep can be tricky and as soon as you think you have it figured out it will probably change again altogether.  

 

 




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HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our blood alcohol, body fat and calories burned calculators.

The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.

Our team of health professionals, and researchers use peer reviewed studies as source elements in our articles.

Our high quality content has been featured in a number of leading websites, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, Live Strong, GQ, and many more.

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HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our blood alcohol, body fat and calories burned calculators. The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years. Our team of health professionals, and researchers use peer reviewed studies as source elements in our articles. Our high quality content has been featured in a number of leading websites, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, Live Strong, GQ, and many more.

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