Small word, huge impact

Newborns and sleep

Sleep: a small five-letter word with a huge impact on your life. You don’t realize how great an impact until you have a baby. Sleep, or rather a lack thereof, is an important topic when talking about newborns. As a brand-new parent, you want nothing more than an effective sleep solution, a magic formula that helps your newborn sleep (well). Unfortunately, there is no such thing because babies have different sleep needs than adults do. But don’t worry, we provide insight into the challenging but wonderful and healthy sleep pattern of newborns. Learn about sleep and the 10 leaps in The Wonder Weeks app.

Newborn sleep cycle

Newborn sleep cycle

Newborn babies are not yet able to produce their own melatonin. They do not have a day and night rhythm and their sleep-wake cycle is chaotic. Short naps, long naps, daytime sleeping, nighttime sleeping: your newborn sleeps whenever he or she wants. From around two months of age, babies start to gradually develop a sleeping and waking cycle.

How much a newborn sleeps is different for every child. Newborns sleep an average of 14 to 18 hours every 24 hours. Some babies need more sleep than others: one baby may need only 14 hours, while another may need as many as 20 hours of sleep.

Help! My newborn won’t sleep

Help! My newborn won’t sleep

Falling asleep can sometimes be challenging for newborns. Because your baby does not yet have a day-and-night rhythm, daytime and nighttime are the same to him or her. Even though your baby clearly needs sleep, each baby goes through phases of poor sleep.

Everything a baby learns and discovers needs to be processed by the brain. This processing largely takes place during sleep. At times, your baby will not want to sleep during the daytime and at other times, not at night. It is also possible that your newborn has a harder time falling asleep as he is going through a leap. Learn all about sleep and the leaps in our app.


Improving your newborns sleep

How much do newborns sleep?

Some babies have trouble sleeping both during the day and night. Luckily, there are a few sleep tips you can use to help your newborn fall asleep:

  • Create a peaceful sleeping environment
  • Develop a bedtime ritual
  • Pay attention to tired signs
  • Encourage a set bedtime routine during both the day and evening
  • Be consistent


The short sleep cycle of a newborn

A sleep cycle consists of different sleep stages. In adults, the sleep cycle is around 90 to 120 minutes, during which we go through four sleep stages: light sleep, deeper sleep, deepest sleep and REM sleep. Like adults, babies also have a sleep cycle, but it is much shorter: around 45 minutes. It can also take babies a lot longer to reach deep sleep. This is the why, for example, your baby falls asleep in your arms, but when you put him or her in bed, he or she wakes up immediately. Your baby is still in the light sleep stage.
Adults are able to put together several sleep cycles, so that we do not wake up immediately after one cycle. But this is different in babies, who are not yet able to link sleep cycles, which means that they often wake up after one sleep cycle, i.e. after around 45 minutes. We refer to these as naps. Naps are very normal for babies, who need time to link together these sleep cycles so that they can sleep for longer stretches at a time.


Newborn won’t sleep during a leap

At around four to six weeks of age, your baby will experience his or her first developmental leap. This leap can affect your baby’s sleeping habits. During the first leap, your baby comes into a world full of sensations. When going through leaps, babies seem to have a difficult time achieving a calm deep sleep. This may be because during a leap, babies spend a relatively longer time in REM sleep in order to make new brain connections. Not surprisingly, your newborn may wake up at the slightest noise or movement. After all, he or she is in the light sleep phase and everyone wakes up easily during this stage. Give your baby the opportunity to reach deep sleep. If this is only possible on the reassuring lap of mum or dad, give him or her that opportunity.

Good to know: 90% of parents experience sleep deprivation after having a baby. It’s not your fault. It’s not your baby’s fault. Your baby’s sleep needs and yours simply collide naturally.