Baby sleep can be a bit of a puzzle, so knowing everything possible about exactly how sleep works for teeny little ones goes a long way to promoting healthy sleep habits.
Our baby and toddler sleep expert, Tara Mitchell, is revealing everything we should know about baby sleep for tots 12 weeks and under.
I wanted to reach out to give you not only some sleep advice but facts around your baby’s sleep to better understand them and the importance of great sleep.
1. Catnapping isn’t just for cats!
I am sure you’ve all heard of the ‘catnap’. This is because little ones sleep cycles are shorter and typically range between 30-50 minutes. However don’t be fooled, just because their sleep cycles are shorter it doesn’t mean they don’t need a significant amount of sleep. Your infant generally needs around 16 – 22 hours sleep!
2. Babies are ‘active’ sleepers
During their sleep, you may notice your young baby is quite restless. This is because young babes spend 50% of their sleep period in REM (more active sleep stage), as opposed to our mere 20% in REM (active) sleep. When little ones use external measures such as the dummy, rocking etc to get to sleep they can struggle to get into deeper surfaces of sleep.
3. Deep sleep happens before midnight
The deepest sleep for your baby and in fact all of us should occur in the first half of the night, which is why many people say they get their better stint of sleep in the first 4 – 5 hours. After midnight your bub is in lighter sleep cycles but this can mean a lot more waking if they rely on external input measures to get back to sleep. This is also why I don’t recommend a dream feed as you are pulling your little one out of their deepest sleep.
4. Babies don’t know how long they’ve slept
There are so many important processes within the body that take place during their deep sleep. Your little ones have no idea how long they have slept for, so if your little one falls asleep I recommend preserving that sleep or keeping bub wide awake so they can fall asleep at a more suitable time or place. You may find if they wake or are woken after 5 – 10 min they could refuse to go back to sleep and this is why. Dozing on feeds might also be the reason your little one refuses their upcoming nap as they counted the quick kip on the feed as their sleep.
5. Sleep = sleep
Sleep promotes sleep, overtiredness is a trigger for your little ones to release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Once this happens they will find it harder to get into sleep and remain in a good rhythm of sleep.
6. Healthy sleep habits aren’t just ‘luck’
Healthy sleep habits are not ‘only if you’re lucky’ they can be achieved irrespective of temperament, milestones, teething or regressions. Good quality and quantity of sleep has the ability to dramatically improve the physical, emotional and relational well being of the entire family.
Read next …
We’ve spoken to Tara about all sorts of baby sleep issues. Here are just a few of the most recent articles:
- How to extend bub’s day sleep cycles
- The telling signs your baby is ready to drop a nap
- 7 reasons babies wake at 5am and what to do about it
Tara Mitchell is a Paediatric Nurse, former international nanny, mum and qualified Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant, she’s also the founder of The Gentle Sleep Specialist – a place for families to get help for sleep issues. Resolving sleep issues, establishing routines, creating healthy sleep habits and managing behaviour at bedtime is what she specialises in.