Babies' sleep cycles are different from adults'

Your baby isn't wired to sleep the same way you do. While your sleep cycles last for roughly 90 minutes and have four stages before REM, your baby's cycles are shorter and smaller.

Newborns cycles last around 40 to 60 minutes and consist of only two stages: active sleep and quiet sleep. Active sleep is most similar to adult REM sleep and makes up 50% of your little one's cycle. Your little one may move around and make some noises during this phase. Quiet sleep is characterized by deeper, rhythmic breathing, no eyelid fluttering, and less movement.

After a cycle, your little one will wake up. When adults finish a cycle, they sometimes return straight back to a lighter stage of sleep and repeat the cycle. Or, if they do wake up, adults can get themselves back to sleep. Babies are still learning to self-settle, which is why they need you so much during the night.

Your little one will be waking every 40 to 60 minutes until they get a bit older, and their cycles change. Not only are their cycles shorter, but their tummies are tiny! Babies are programmed to be 'wakeful' to ensure they spend enough time awake each day to secure enough food. Constantly re-settling and feeding your little one throughout the night can be exhausting, but keep in mind this is their nature, and it is temporary.

Around the three-month mark, your little one’s sleep cycle will alter to include stages of light sleep, deep sleep, and dream sleep. By six months, you can hope to get a few hours of rest at a time, as your baby should begin to sleep for two to three hours blocks soon enough.

Although newborns won't sleep for long periods at a time, they spend most of their time asleep. Generally, a baby up to three months old will sleep for 14 to 17 out of 24 hours; six months old babies for around 12 to 15 hours.

If your baby seems to be struggling to sleep, or you are suffering from exhaustion yourself, consult your family health nurse GP. They may help you (or recommend a specialist) to develop some soothing strategies with your baby to get them falling asleep calmer and quicker. Try checking on your little one periodically and observing what's happening. This way, you can pass on information about your little one's sleep cycles and habits.

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