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Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns

For new parents, understanding your newborn’s sleep patterns will be critical for your sanity and peace of mind, and be helpful in understanding how much sleep your baby needs and how those needs will change as they grow. Because being a new parent is difficult, we’ve put together this guide on newborn sleep patterns that you can reference. If you have questions specific to your newborn or regarding when to start implementing a sleep schedule or trying sleep training, call Seven Oaks Sleep Science.

Newborns and Sleep: Strong Circadian Rhythms Are Absent

You probably know a little bit about the circadian rhythm, which is the 24-hour clock that is running in your body and regulating your sleep and wake times. You may also know that the best thing to do to regulate your circadian rhythm is to expose yourself to bright light during the day (like the sun), and to limit light exposure at night. Light can have a huge effect on your ability to sleep, and sleep well.

But this isn’t the case for newborns. In fact, newborn sleep cycles are not governed by strong circadian rhythms as they are in adults. Instead, when a baby is still in the womb, their sleep-wake cycle is governed by mom’s activity and hormones. For example, when mom is producing melatonin (the “sleep hormone”), this is passed to the baby as well.

Which means that when a baby is born, they don’t yet have a circadian rhythm of their own in place yet, and have to develop one.

So What Should You Expect?

Any new parent will tell you that newborns seem to sleep and wake at random hours, and around-the-clock. And this is true; remember, their circadian rhythms aren’t yet established, and they need to eat at frequent intervals, which can complicate the sleep process even more. An article published in Parenting Science offers three truths about newborn sleep patterns: 1) newborns will awaken easily, 2) newborns hardly ever sleep for very long periods at once, and 3) newborn sleep times can vary from 16 to 18 hours per day to 14 hours to as few as nine hours.

An article published in Stanford Children’s Health says that most of the time, a newborn will sleep for about eight to nine hours during the day, and another eight hours at night.

Helping Your Baby Fall Asleep

Sleep is critical for newborns, as development is still occurring, and rapidly. Sleep is also important for you as a new parent – you too need plenty of rest to maintain your physical and mental health! Some things that you can do to help your newborn sleep well include:

  • Look for signs of sleep readiness, such as yawning, rubbing of the eyes, or looking away;
  • Establish a bedtime routine;
  • Put your baby down to sleep on their back (which is the safest position for a baby to sleep);
  • Provide the right environment for sleep, which includes an environment that is a comfortable temperature, dark, and quiet.

Learn More About Sleep for Infants

If you’re a new parent with dozens of questions about your baby’s sleep schedule and how to promote sleep, we can help. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Natalie Barnett of Seven Oaks Sleep Science, call us today or send us a consultation request using the form on our website.