New-borns and sleep cycles

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One of the biggest shocks of becoming a parent is the disruption to your peaceful nights. Say goodbye to seven hours of dreams and snores, and hello to that plaintive wail that tells you your baby is awake.

New-born babies don’t know the difference between day and night. A new-born may sleep as much as 16 hours a day – or even more – often in stretches of 3 to 4 hours at a time. Like the rest of us, babies have different phases of sleep: drowsiness, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, light sleep, deep sleep, and very deep sleep. As babies grow, their periods of wakefulness increase.

At first, these short stretches of 3 to 4 hours of sleep may be frustrating for you as they interfere with your sleep pattern. This will change as your baby grows and begins to adapt to the rhythms of life outside the womb. At first, though, the need to feed will outweigh the need to sleep.

Establishing sleep patterns

  • Establishing an awake and sleep cycle is important for all human beings as part of the basic needs and survival.
  • When your baby is born, he or she doesn’t know what the difference is between day and night.
  • In time and with your help your baby will develop his own circadian rhythm, the internal sense of time that we all live by.
  • Your baby’s circadian rhythm not only regulates awake and sleep times but also metabolism and temperature.

When will your baby’s sleep cycle kick in?

  • Your baby’s internal clock takes quite a while to develop. In the first weeks your baby will probably only sleep 2 to 3 hours at a time throughout the 24-hour day.
  • Within the first 3 months your baby’s nervous system will be more developed and she may start to show signs of being more awake in the day and sleep more in the night.
  • By six months many babies have settled into night-time as being the main sleep time.
  • However, this does not mean that you will have an undisturbed night’s sleep when your baby turns 6 months! Remember that every baby is different and many things can affect sleep patterns.