For adults, a seven to nine-hour sleep is recommended by the experts to help our body get the rest it needs for a long day’s work. Sleep is a natural mechanism our bodies do to recharge for the next day. Babies, however, have very different and fascinating sleeping patterns.
What are the typical sleep patterns for newborn?
Newborns are believed to sleep in short bouts –about an estimated 30 minutes to 4 hours throughout day and night. Most parents end up being sleep deprived by their baby’s sleeping pattern as babies in their first years are “active sleepers”. This means that they tend to easily awaken since their sleep are characterized by fluttering eyelids, sporadic movements, brief grunts or crying and irregular, rapid breathing.
Surprisingly, one study showed that babies vary greatly in the amount of time they sleep. In the first few days, babies sleep between 16-18 hours a day and by the fourth week, newborns sleep about 14 hours. Although this may fluctuate as some four-week-olds sleep as little as 9 to 19 hours a day. If you, on the other hand, have any concerns about your child’s sleeping habit, you may discuss it with your medical provider.
Why newborn sleep patterns are unpredictable?
Our sleeping pattern as adults is governed by circadian rhythms -physiological changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. This is influenced by the exposure of light. You might ask, “What does it have to do with my baby’s sleeping pattern?” During pregnancy, your body is the one setting up this rhythm in the baby in your womb. The baby’s heartbeat and respiratory rate speeds up when mom is active and slows down when she is sleeping. Yet after birth, this connection is broken and your baby must rely on his or her own circadian rhythm which isn’t as strong as when he or she is older –since his or her body is still yet to develop his or her productions of cortisol (hormone for alertness) and melatonin (hormone for drowsiness).
So, your baby’s sleeping pattern is shaped by the length of time of his or her feeding, digesting and being hungry again. For most newborns, this means feeding every few hours and sleep episodes are brief and spaced in fairly regular intervals around the clock.
When your baby will start to sleep longer
Studies show that most infants take about 12 weeks to show day-night rhythms. By 3-5 months time, they are now able to sleep up to a 5-hour stretch. Studies show that circadian rhythms begin developing in the first days after birth. However, scientific evidence suggests that even newborns are receptive to environmental cues about time. You can take advantage of this fact to help shape newborn sleep patterns.
How to help babies adapt to the 24-hour day:
Do things with your baby as a daily routine.
Researchers say that when mothers include their newborns in their daily activities, newborn sleep patterns adapt more rapidly to the 24-hour day.
Minimize stimulation at night.
Avoid making noises and moving your baby around as this may wake him or her up completely.
Has your baby exposed to natural light?
Sunlight is your best friend. It is found out that babies being exposed to natural light have easily adapted to the 24-hour cycle than those who have not. Also, babies who get outside developed faster and stronger circadian rhythms.
Do infant massage.
One study reports that newborns who received 14 days of massage therapy (beginning when they were about 10 days old) showed more mature sleep patterns in later weeks.
Keep track of the time of day you extract and store breast milk for future use.
Breast milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that is used by the body to manufacture melatonin. Tryptophan levels rise and fall according to maternal circadian rhythms, and when infants consume tryptophan before bedtime, they fall asleep faster. It is, therefore, possible that breastfeeding helps newborn sleep patterns synchronize with the 24-hour day.
Featured photo credit: Omer Unlu via flickr.com