Sleep is a sensitive issue which is close to many parents’ hearts, affecting not only their children but also their own general well being and sanity. Not many people can function well on a broken night’s sleep, not to mention a long period of sleep deprivation.
People’s expectations of young babies are often unrealistic, many thinking a newborn baby should always be happy and content, sleeping soundly through the day and night –within days, weeks or months of birth. If this isn’t happening it’s easy to despair.
Let’s look at how we sleep Understanding normal sleep cycles can provide insight into your baby’s sleeping and waking patterns. As adults we sleep in organised cycles of about 90 minutes. Each cycle is made up of 75% quiet sleep (or deep sleep) and about 25% of R.E.M (rapid eye movement - or dreaming sleep). It’s during our R.E.M sleep that we’re more likely to be woken up by noises etc. When we first fall asleep, we enter a period of deep sleep and are unlikely to wake up.
In contrast, the sleep cycle of a baby is about 45 minutes in length, 50% of which is R.E.M. During R.E.M sleep a baby’s brain is just as active as when they’re awake.
Until babies are about three months old they begin each sleep cycle with the R.E.M phase. This means they can be very easily woken in the first 20 minutes after going to sleep.
How much sleep does my baby need?
Every baby is an individual and will have their own individual sleep pattern. Below is an average amount of time a baby under 12 months spends sleeping and crying every 24 hours.