As parents, the subject of sleep and babies is a wondrous, often baffling one. “How can a baby consistently wake up at the most perplexing times?” It’s something we can spend hours over-analysing. “Teething?” Potentially. “Developmental milestones?” Could be. “Body temperature?” Anything’s possible.
However, while these may be some of the reasons for disturbed slumber, there are some other things you should know about your baby's sleep. All of which can help you understand how and why they’re sleeping (or not sleeping!) in a certain way.
Our guest blogger Talya from Motherhood: The Real Deal takes us through them.
1. Babies can look fully asleep, even when they’re not
That blissful moment has arrived. Your baby has closed their eyes, you quietly creep over to the cot and ever-so gently put them down. But, before you can leave their eyes have pinged open and they’re crying like you have committed the world's worst travesty.
Why does that happen? Because babies do a very good job at looking like they’re fast asleep, when they’re only sleeping lightly. To make sure they’re in a really deep sleep, wait an extra 20 minutes after they nod off before you put them down.
2. Babies have shorter sleep cycles than adults
While the average adult sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes, a baby's is 50-60 minutes, meaning they have the potential to awake every hour or so. Thankfully, as they get older, their sleep cycles lengthen.
Newborns however spend more time in deep sleep. This is why at about four months you may see a sudden shift in your baby's sleep habits with more waking as they become lighter sleepers. They can also become more aware of sensations and stimuli.
3. Babies spend much less time in deep sleep
Your baby has more Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep - otherwise known as active sleep - than you. However, despite spending most of their time in REM sleep, it’ believed that children are dreamless for the first few years of life. Instead REM sleep's main purpose in babies is to stimulate their brain, create new pathways and to assist in healthy neurological development.
4. Baby's light sleep is crucial
Babies can't protect themselves so the way they sleep is vital. Being a light sleeper means that they can wake easily when they need to consume the additional calories they require to grow, or communicate that they’re too hot or too cold.
5. Your baby's sleep (or lack of) starves you of how much sleep?!
OK, so losing sleep because of your baby isn’t exactly a huge surprise or something you didn't know. But; if you’ve ever wondered exactly how much your little screamer is denying you, well the results are in.
A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours lost sleep for parents in the first year! (Huffington Post)
And finally, if you’re someone who’s bundle of joy’s making them lose hundreds of hours of sleep then rest easy because you’re in good company. Parents have been dealing with this since the beginning of time and will continue to do so for many centuries to come!