Are some babies inherently good sleepers, while others aren’t? Yes to a certain extent this is true. However natural variations are a lot less than most parents think. There are specific patterns of sleep which are universal to most babies and toddlers. This timeline, collated through years of research, will outline these typical sleep patterns. It will explain what sleep behaviour you can reasonably expect of your little one at each stage of their development.
- Nestled in the sleep-inducing womb, the environment is consistent and perfect for sleep. It’s dark, warm, quiet, and when you walk or move about, your baby is rocked to sleep.
- Your unborn baby sleeps twenty hours or more each day according to study.
- Your baby is used to hearing the comforting sounds of your heartbeat, the gurgling of your stomach, and the soft tones of your voice. Also, he never experiences hunger due to being permanently hooked up to a steady stream of nutrition. As a consequence of these factors, your baby seldom has difficulty falling to sleep.
- Waking periods are random and for very short periods of time.
- Your baby is a very active sleeper. The kicking and poking sensations that you can feel are often movements made during sleep.
- By the seventh month of pregnancy your baby will start to dream as their brain is now developed enough to partake in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep . In REM sleep, the higher centres of the brain receive stimulation from deeper, more primitive areas. Impulses come up the same sensory pathways that are used for sight and sound, and perhaps touch, smell and taste. This state may allow the unborn baby's developing brain to receive sensory input - to 'see' and to 'hear' - even before birth!
- During REM sleep, muscular impulses in the foetus are not blocked as completely as they are in children and adults, so the foetus has some ability to practice actual body movements.
- By the eighth month of pregnancy your baby will also partake in non-REM sleep. In this more quiet phase of sleep, your baby makes no breathing motions. Yet if respiratory movements were never practiced, your child would be born with no experience at all in using these muscles that are so necessary to survival. Thankfully, respiratory motions do occur in REM sleep.
- Children dream more the younger they are. 90% of the sleep of premature babies is spent in REM sleep . Unborn babies dream most of all. What does a foetus’ dream about? We can never know. Maybe just flashes of sounds and murky sights.
- If you’ve had a 4D scan, you may have noticed your unborn baby ‘smiling’ in their sleep. This is because during REM sleep, facial muscles can twitch, producing ‘sleep grins’.
- Your baby is ‘nocturnal’. He is most active during the night time as there is more room to move, and less soothing rocking motions to pacify him.
1 Day Old:
- You’ve waited 9 long months to meet your baby, and now she’s here, all she seems to do is sleep. Newborns live up to the old adage of “sleeping like a baby”. Wakefulness in the first few hours after birth, followed by a long stretch, often up to 24 hours, of intermittent sleep, is the normal newborn pattern. You will still need to wake your baby for feeds every 3-4 hours whether breast or formula feeding.
- At this point, the gestational age of your child would determine the sleep patterns or lack thereof. If your child was born early, use the EDD (expected date of delivery) as the true age to find out where your child might be within this timeline. So for example, if your baby was born 3 weeks early then at 1 month your baby would be 1 week old.
- If your baby was born early he will probably sleep his way through the days until he comes to his due date, when he may suddenly wake up and you wonder what happened.
- Your newborn is likely to fall asleep soon immediately after – and sometimes during – a feed.
- Sleep is very erratic at this age and doesn't follow a pattern because basically the newborn's brain is still maturing. There is NOTHING a parent can do at this time to manipulate sleep. Don't force what is not possible.
- If you watch your newborn while she is sleeping you will notice that there are times when, under her eyelids, her eyes flick frantically from side to side and she may frown, flutter suck, or wriggle her fingers and toes. This is REM or “dream” sleep. Unlike adults and older babies, newborns fall directly into REM sleep, a pattern that continues until they are around three months old.
- Your baby will spend half of their sleeping time in REM sleep, whereas you (as an adult) spend only a quarter of your sleeping time in REM.
- Your newborn sleeps in cycles of around 50 or 60 minutes of REM (dream) and non-REM (deep) sleep. After each cycle your baby has a partial awakening – this brief moment of semi-awakeness may startle your baby and make him wake up even more .
- Towards the morning the proportions of non-REM and REM reverse, so that much of your baby’s early-morning sleep is REM. This explains why babies often wake up more during that time.
- It is recommended that your baby sleep in the same room as you for the first six months.
- Your newborn may sleep for as little as 11 hours to 20 hours out of 24.
- She may make sudden, jerky, twitchy movements in her sleep. This is due to a normal reflex called the “startle” or Moro reflex. It sometimes occurs for no apparent reason, although often it is a response to a loud noise or a sudden jolt. It may seem worrying to you, but the reflex is actually a reassuring sign that your baby’s neurological system is functioning well.
- Almost undetectable breathing is also normal. In deep sleep your baby can breathe very quietly and look completely still.
- A baby sleeping bag is a safer alternative to traditional sheets as your baby cannot wriggle under them; however, during these early newborn weeks it can be effective to use a sheet and blanket, as this helps your baby feel more secure when he is tucked in snugly. Then from 6-8 weeks you can change to using a sleeping bag as your baby develops more mobility.
Tip: We believe this recognition is a wonderful sign: Clearly, awareness is growing about the value of reading to babies in utero. Establishing a practice of family storytime by reading to babies before and after birth is the first step in fostering in our children a lifelong love of reading and learning, as well as family and social bonding. It’s our dream that someday soon this will be a universal practice with lasting benefits for families everywhere.
The sole purpose of these blogs is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained doctor/health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic expert, call us or e mail.
Dr Unnati Chavda
(Promoting pregnancy wellness)