Dr. Deena Shares Sleep Tips Every New Parent Should Know
While babies sleep a lot at first, understanding their sleep patterns and creating good sleep hygiene can make all the difference. As a new parent, you will quickly learn the way in which newborns, infants, toddlers and children sleep differently from that of adults. So, understanding developmentally normal sleep patterns can help new parents understand what reasonable expectations are for their little one.
Sleep terms all parents should know:
Quiet Sleep: During quiet sleep, your little one is asleep with stillness, breathing regularly and has normal muscle tone.
Active Sleep: During active sleep, your little one will have decreased body tone and multiple active movements. This will include rapid eye movements and periods of irregular breathing.
Newborns have discrete sleep cycles lasting 50-60 minutes and will wake every 2-4 hours. These sleep cycles are equal parts quiet and active sleep. Newborns have their day-night cycles reversed and will often sleep better during the day and be more awake at night. The average 1 month old will sleep somewhere between 9 and 19 hours a day with an average of 14 hours! By three months, the sleep patterns are starting to shift with 60% quiet sleep and 40% active sleep. This inconsistent sleep pattern may last until around 4 months of age.
Around 4 months old, your baby will have developed more regular day-night sleep periods. Children this age will typically sleep 13-15 hours a day and be able to sustain awake periods of 2-4 hours. The longest period of sleep is typically at night with 2-3 naps during the day. Between 6-12 months of age, sleep patterns continue to mature and circadian rhythms are similar to those seen in adults.
Tips for creating good sleep hygiene
- Establish a safe, comfortable sleep environment. The room should be cool and over bundling and overheating should be avoided. In addition, the room should be darkened to send the message that we sleep when it is dark. Use the crib for sleep only. Do not place your child in the crib to play. The goal is for your little one to associate their crib with sleeping.
- Create a bedtime routine that works for your family and is soothing and pleasing to both the parent and the child. This may include a bath, massage, reading books and singing. Try to be consistent in your sleep routines so that your little one can associate it with bedtime.
- There is a “window of opportunity” for getting little ones to sleep. Once children are overtired it can be challenging to get them to settle down. Try to pick up on your little one’s sleep cues and put them down when somewhat tired rather than waiting for them to be exhausted.
- Consistency is key! Try to keep a consistent schedule for naps and bedtimes. This helps your child maintain age appropriate sleep patterns.
- Provide environmental cues about the time of day and sleep expectations. At nighttime, lower the light level and start to quiet the house. Minimize interactions and playtime during nighttime feeds. In the morning, turn on bright lights and encourage playful and stimulating interaction.
Dr. Deena Blanchard is a board-certified pediatrician working at Premier Pediatrics. She has provided health/parenting tips for outlets such as Vogue, AOL, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, The Bump, The Daily News, and appeared on Health.Com Live, CBS and CUNY-TV. She also has her own Huffington Post channel and is a regular contributor for multiple blogs and Facebook lives.