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The Science of Baby Sleep and How to get your baby to "Sleep Like A Baby"

The Science of Baby Sleep and How to get your baby to "Sleep Like A Baby"

Newborn sleep patterns usually include sleeping for 16-18 hours in every 24-hour period. When they're not sleeping, they're probably eating.

Until they reach 8-10 weeks old, most newborns will spend most of their days sleeping. As your baby gets older, their wake windows get longer and they spend more time awake and fewer hours sleeping.

Types of Sleep

To really understand newborn sleep and why they sleep so much (and why they have no concept of night and day), you need to know about the two different types of sleep: REM sleep and non-REM sleep,

REM sleep (rapid eye movement) is light sleep, where dreams occur. Your eyes move rapidly back and forth. About half of the sleep that newborns have is REM sleep. 

Non-REM sleep has four different stages:

  1. Drowsiness, drooping eye, dozing
  2. Light sleep; babies may startle or jump when they hear a noise
  3. Deep sleep; babies are quiet and don't move much
  4. Very deep sleep 

Baby sleep patterns include cycling through non-REM sleep during the night. Once they get through stage 1, they cycle through stages 2-4 several times during their sleep. As they pass from one stage to another, they may waken slightly and find it difficult to go back to sleep. This is why some babies wake many times during the night, even if they aren't hungry. 

Sleep All Day, Party All Night? 

If it seems like your baby doesn't know the difference between night and day, it's because they don't. Adult sleep is controlled by circadian rhythms, which babies haven't yet developed. Circadian rhythms govern our 24-hour internal clock and tell our body when it's time to wake up and wind down. 

Because newborns spend 9 months in the womb, where it is dark all the time, they aren't born with these rhythms. Instead, it takes time to teach them when it's time to sleep and time to be awake. 

You can help your baby develop their circadian rhythm by doing the following: 

  • Reduce stimulation at night (keep lights to a minimum during bedtime and night feedings; try a nightlight or a red bulb in a lamp)
  • Make sure to expose your baby to plenty of daylight during the day—get outside, open the blinds and curtains, etc. 
  • Create a bedtime routine that is the same each night

Even if you get your baby to recognize the differences between day and night and teach them that night time means it's time to sleep, it still may take months (or even longer) for them to sleep through the night. 

Babies, especially newborns, have small stomachs and often need to eat every 3-4 hours. These stretches get longer as they get older, but it will take some time to get there. Your pediatrician may also have you wake your baby to feed them if they aren't gaining enough weight.

Sleep Like a Baby?

Whoever came up with that saying must not have really known how babies sleep! Now that you have a bit more insight into the answer to "how much do newborns sleep," you can start working on helping your newborn learn circadian rhythms and know what's going on as they cycle through non-REM sleep. 

To help you keep track of your baby's sleep, check out Wunder. We have a new product coming in summer 2020 that uses AI to help keep track of everything about your baby and assist you in parenting. For now, you can ask a Wunder coach from the comfort of your home) about sleep or download the Wunder app with over 600+ activities you can do with your baby to help them reach critical developmental milestones!

Baby Sleep Schedule 101: How to Get a Routine Down with Your Newborn

Baby Sleep Schedule 101: How to Get a Routine Down with Your Newborn

There are few things in life more exciting than bringing home a brand new baby!

Babies bring joy, excitement, and fulfillment to life, but they can also leave you feeling exhausted.

You'll need energy, though, to care for your baby, and a great way to get the energy you need is by establishing a baby sleep schedule.

Now, this isn't going to happen overnight. But, it can happen a lot faster if you are intentional with it.

Here are some helpful tips you can use to create a good sleep schedule for your little child.

Start When Your Little One Is a Few Weeks Old

It's not easy to train a brand-new baby to stick to a schedule, so don't try to rush this. Instead, wait until your child is at least a few weeks old before implementing a sleep schedule routine.

If you start too soon, you may feel discouraged when your plan is not working. Be patient, and start slowly. It will take some time for you to learn your baby, and for your baby to learn a routine.

Your baby will most likely adapt well to an established routine by the time he or she is a few months old.

Keep Day and Night Separate

Babies aren't born with a sense of night and day, so helping them learn the difference is key to a successful sleep schedule. You can start right away!

During the day, keep the blinds or curtains open to let lots of daylight in. When your baby isn't napping, give them lots of stimulating play, conversation, and eye contact. At night and nap time, turn the lights and volume low.

When your baby wakes to feed at night, turn on the dimmest light possible, keep talking to a minimum, and resist the urge to gaze into their eyes (they find it really stimulating!). They'll soon start to realize that day is for activity and night is for sleep.

Create a Routine Before Bed

As your baby begins growing, you should create a routine to use before bed. A lot of parents like bathing their babies before bed. Next, they may read a story to their child. After that, they may cuddle them and sing them a lullaby.

These are all great activities to incorporate into a sleep schedule. As your baby develops, he or she will get used to the order of these events and will know what to expect next.

Having a schedule is essential for a baby's cognitive development. Babies will even sleep better when they have a schedule to follow.

Let Him or Her Fall Asleep Alone

One aspect to include in your bedtime routine is letting your baby fall asleep on his or her own. Don't wait to put your newborn to bed until he or she is sleeping. Instead, let your child learn how to fall asleep alone.

Offer a Safe, Nurturing Environment

It's also essential to provide your newborn with a safe, nurturing environment to sleep in. Your baby should sleep in a room that is dark and cool. It should be free of drafts, too.

You can play white noise in the background to offer a soothing sound for your baby, and you should always put your baby to sleep in the same place for naps and bedtime.

Learn More About Developing a Baby Sleep Schedule

Creating a baby sleep schedule is vital for you and your child. If you start working on it and stay consistent, you'll have a good routine to use each day.

If you would like more information about parenting a new baby, check out our blog for more helpful articles.


The Secret to Sleep Training

The Secret to Sleep Training

So, you’ve read every book, blog and article you can on how to sleep train. There’s the Ferber method. Cry it Out, the happy sleeper, Bedtime-routine fading, Bedtime-hour fading… the list goes ON.

There’s also the opinions of your in-laws (“In my day, we never let a baby…”).

It’s all a bit confusing not to mention the baby brain. It is a real thing. 

I’m here to tell you my story of how we went from waking up 4-6 times a night to sleeping through the night - literally overnight.