Sleep is a Nutrient - Guest Blog Post by Dorothy Waide
- Babies need to be guided to learn how to self-settle (sleep) and resettle (stay asleep).
- Most newborns will sleep on average 16 hours out of 24.
- Ideally, by 12 weeks' babies will have the ability to sleep for stretches of six to eight hours at night.
- There is no such thing as a baby who doesn't need much sleep, however each baby is an individual and sleep patterns will vary.
Why Do Newborn Babies Sleep So Much?
Sleep is a nutrient and is as vital to your baby's wellbeing as food. Neuroscientists have found that much of your baby's complex brain development occurs in the weeks immediately before birth and continues at an extraordinary rate throughout the first year of life — much of it while sleeping. At no other point in life does this staggering level of brain development take place. Sleep is a Learned Behaviour- Some parents assume that their baby instinctively knows how to establish healthy sleep patterns, but in my experience newborns need guidance to learn how to self-settle, resettle and sleep soundly. As a guide, most newborns will sleep approximately 16 hours in a 24-hour period and this will vary from day to day. Some need more sleep than others. How well your baby sleeps will influence your baby's feeding rhythms and have a positive or negative effect on you and your family.
Somewhere between 20 and 45 minutes, your baby eases from one sleep cycle into the next. For some babies, digestive issues wake them around the 20-minute mark. For others, the process of passing from light sleep to deep sleep (around 45 minutes) wakes them. It is during the deeper sleep cycle that vital growth hormones are released.
Babies who do not progress beyond the threshold of light sleep often fall into a pattern of short sleep cycles (catnaps) and frequent feeding cycles. For example, a baby may sleep for 45 minutes or less, then wake up crying. New parents often respond by getting them up to feed — assuming that sleep time is over rather than giving them a chance to resettle. Catnaps and frequent feeding inevitably produce an overtired, over-stimulated baby, which compounds sleeping and feeding issues.
The Two Alternating States of Sleep
Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM), or 'quiet' sleep, is when blood supply to the muscles is increased, energy restored, tissue growth and repair take place and important hormones are released for growth and development.
Newborns spend about half their time in each of these states and the sleep cycle is around 45 minutes. At about six months of age, REM sleep makes up about 30 per cent of sleep.
Did you know?
This explains why they wake so easily. Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development.
More from Dorothy
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