Infants and sleep

Babies sleep differently than adults

The sleep needs of an infant vary considerably by age. A three-month-old has completely different needs than an eleven-month-old. But sleep is always a very important part of life for both your baby and you as a parent. If your baby sleeps poorly, so do you. It is important to understand that babies sleep differently than adults and that the perfect sleep rhythm is not yet the norm with babies. It could also be that your baby is sleeping worse because he is going through a leap. Read more about this in our app.

An infant’s sleep schedule

An infant’s sleep schedule

Adults and infants have completely different sleep schedules, which end up colliding. It’s usually the parents who suffer, not the baby. The sleep needs of your infant indirectly determine your sleep rhythm and that can prove to be difficult.

It is completely normal for a baby to wake up (often) at night. But you need to get out of bed, are brought out of your sleep cycle and then need to fall back asleep again. By better understanding the sleep schedule of your infant, you will know what to expect and what you can do to make this phase easier for you. The older your baby becomes, the more your sleep needs will start to align.

Infant sleep regression: leaps

Infant sleep regression: leaps

During a leap, many babies do not sleep as well as they otherwise do. Learn all about this in the Wonder Weeks app. They start waking up more easily more often. It seems that babies are unable to achieve restful sleep during a leap. This may be because during a leap, babies spend a relatively longer time in REM sleep in order to make new brain connections. As a result, your baby wakes up at the slightest noise or movement and your infant experiences sleep regression. During leaps, it’s important to give your baby the opportunity to have longer REM sleep duration.

Infant sleep cycles

Day-night rhythm and sleep-wake cycle in infants

Sleeping involves a part of the brain (a group of nerve cells in the hypothalamus that impose their daily rhythm on the rest of the body) that is not yet fully developed in infants. When you think about a day-night rhythm, you probably thing about waking and sleeping, but the sleep-wake cycle is only part of the various circadian rhythms. In the middle of the brain is a gland that is responsible for sleep rhythms. It’s connected to the eyes, so it perceives whether or not there is light and consequently, whether it’s day or night.

You may be wondering when a child as fully developed its sleep-wake cycle. From around two months of age, your infant will start to gradually develop a sleeping and waking cycle, although you may not notice this right away. Babies can only develop a day-night rhythm once they are able to produce melatonin. Between the age of three and six months, babies start to increasingly develop a pattern in the production of melatonin at night. Your infant will begin to have a more regular and predictable sleep cycle.

Unfortunately, this new rhythm can be disrupted by a leap. Luckily, this is only a temporary disruption and it’s encouraging to see that your baby is starting to develop a sleep-wake cycle. Keep in mind that every baby is different and you should not be worried if your infant still does not have a regular sleep cycle at this age.

Help, my infant won’t sleep through the night!

A newborn is not yet able to sleep through the night. The medical definition of sleeping through the night is that a baby sleeps five to six hours in a row. A three-month-old baby may sleep this long, but most babies do not do this until older. But for you as a parent, this may not feel like sleeping through the night because you often need eight hours of sleep in a row. From the age of six months, babies are often able to sleep eight hours in a row. But remember that every baby is different and if your baby still wakes up a few times each night at six months, this is completely normal.

Babies can go through episodes of separation anxiety. This can also be an issue during the night. Separation anxiety usually starts when a baby is around nine months old, but can start as early as six months. If your baby wakes up at night and notices that he or she is all alone, your child may feel abandoned. If your infant usually sleeps through the night, he or she may suddenly start waking up more often at night.


No infant sleeps through the entire night

Remember, no one sleeps through the entire night – including you. At the end of a sleep cycle, you transition into the twilight zone between sleeping and waking and then start the next cycle. But your infant is not able to sleep through the entire night. Some infants start a new sleep cycle right away, but this does not mean that these babies sleep through the entire night. After all, no one does!