Sleep of newborns: how it works and how to regularize it
In the first days of life children sleep a lot and need to eat often. The sleep-wake rhythm of a newborn is therefore particularly discontinuous and it can be difficult for parents to understand how best to respond to the needs of their baby and make his rest more regular and comfortable. The sleep cycle of children is in fact much shorter and, at least in the first months, less profound than that of an adult. For this reason it can happen that new parents worry about too many, or too few, hours of sleep for the child and ask themselves how to get the newborn to sleep at night and avoid any sleep disturbances.
So let’s see together how to get a newborn to sleep and how to regularize it to ensure the little ones at home sleep peacefully.
Newborn sleep cycle: how does it work?
Newborn babies need many hours of sleep, which are gradually reduced during growth. Each newborn is different from the other, but usually in the first months of life a child sleeps about 80% of the time and the hours of sleep range from 15 to 20 hours a day (against 7-8 hours of an adult and 5-6 hours of an elder) distributed evenly over the 24 hours. However, the sleep cycle of the newborn is also more fragmented than that of an adult and is divided into cycles lasting about an hour. The frequent nocturnal awakenings of children are therefore normal in the first months of life and also depend on the sense of hunger and satiety and the need to feed, at least every 3-4 hours.
During the night there are different phases of sleep, also in terms of amount of time: the sleep cycle of a newborn lasts about an hour, divided into REM phase – the one in which you dream and it is easier to wake up – and non-REM, with frequent transitions from one to another. At birth, the REM phase represents about 50% of the total, then 25% around 2-3 years and 20% at 6 years (as in adults). The highest percentage of REM sleep in children is functional to brain development. Sleep in fact affects their growth and promotes the maturation processes of the brain, but not only:
it helps to consolidate memory and everything that the child learns during the day;
it promotes the secretion of growth hormone;
It strengthens the immune system.
How does baby sleep change?
In the first months of life children gradually structure their own circadian rhythm. As for the development of sleep in newborns, the most significant changes occur in the first 6 months of life, and then reduce as the baby grows. In general:
from 1 to 6 months the child begins to have a day-night periodicity and the vigil is distributed mainly in the afternoon and evening. There are also progressive changes in the circadian rhythms of temperature and cardiac and respiratory activity, and sleep begins to structure more and more like adults;
from 4 to 6 months the child can start sleeping up to 6 hours at night and stay awake for a longer time during the day. It also begins to be influenced by the light-dark cycle. In general, the amount of sleep in this phase of growth is around 12-14 hours, mainly during the night;
from 6 months to 4 years the hours of sleep are reduced progressively up to 10-12 hours and increase the hours of wakefulness. At one year of life the child sleeps 13 hours and then passes to 12 between 3 and 4 years, including afternoon naps. When the child becomes more aware of the world around him, sleep can also begin to be more disturbed by external stimuli and therefore more intermittent at night;
from 5 to 12 years the sleep is increasingly similar to that of an adult, with an average duration ranging from 8 to 9 hours and a half, and the structure is more stable. Therefore, the daytime sleep disappears and the time of falling asleep also delays in a progressive way.
Newborn sleeping schedule: how to regulate it?
As we have seen, sleep is crucial for children, especially in the first months of life, so it is important to make sure that the newborn sleeps for as long as he needs and learns to manage his sleep-wake rhythms independently. The sleep of newborns can take some time to regularize, but there are some strategies and small measures that can encourage rest and make it easier to sleep.
To regularize the sleep of newborns try to:
create an evening ritual that reconciles rest and helps the child to fall asleep, such as singing a lullaby, reading a book or other activities to be repeated daily before putting him to bed to prepare him at bedtime;
do not wait until he is too tired to put him to bed, because the baby may be more nervous and irritable and therefore fall asleep with difficulty. Also try to avoid too exciting games or too intense activities in the hours before bed;
create a quiet and welcoming atmosphere, which can encourage rest and try to make the child fall asleep directly in the crib, in the cot or where he will have to spend the night, avoiding instead sleeping on the sofa or in your bed and then move it. This in fact could confuse and encourage frequent awakenings at night;
carefully choose the bed system and a safe and comfortable children’s mattress – such as the Sanifresh model by Mollyflex – that has the right degree of rigidity and that also ensures good breathability at night. In general, it is better to choose a mattress for children rigid and without pillow (or with a special hypoallergenic pillow for children) and remove any duvets, plush or games from the bed. Alternatively, you can also buy an anti-suffocation mattress to give your baby a healthy and safe rest. The ideal would be to let the newborn sleep in your room, but in a crib or in a separate cot.
Do you need more information or further advice to regularize your child’s sleep and choose the mattress or sleeping accessories that best suit his needs? Contact us or visit us at one of our stores! Our staff is always available to advise you on the best products and help you ensure even the youngest a healthy and comfortable rest!