Understanding baby sleep: A comprehensive guide for parents

October 06, 2022

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Becoming a parent for the first time is a wonderful experience. However, this new role also comes with many questions: How much do babies sleep? How often do I feed them? How do I get them to sleep?

Each baby is different and the same applies to the baby's sleep. It's very important to know the basic facts thou. It can help you to improve your child’s sleeping habits and it also makes your life a little easier.

How much should babies sleep

Babies, cute and cuddly, are also known for their peculiar sleep patterns. But how much sleep do they really need? Let's peel back the covers and take a look.

Newborns: welcome to the world
Newborn babies sleep a lot – about 16 to 18 hours a day. But it isn't all in one go. They sleep in spurts throughout the day and night, each lasting from a few minutes to several hours. Interesting, right?

Infants: growing and dreaming
As babies grow, their sleep patterns begin to change. By the time they're three months old, they start sleeping more at night, up to 10 hours, with additional daytime naps.

Toddlers: play hard, sleep hard
Toddlers need about 12 to 14 hours of sleep, but unlike infants, they spend more time in active sleep, which is necessary for the incredible brain development occurring at this age.

Do you want to know more about how much sleep babies usually need during the first 12 months of their life? Continue here.

Baby sleep schedule

The importance of sleep for babies

Why is sleep so vital for babies, you ask? Well, sleep isn't just essential for rest and rejuvenation. In babies, sleep plays a far more critical role – it promotes growth. Yes, you read it right. Growth hormones are primarily secreted during deep sleep. Apart from supporting physical growth, sleep also fuels the brain, helping babies learn better and consolidate memories.

Factors affecting baby sleep

Just like adults, various factors can affect a baby's sleep. These can range from their age, developmental milestones, and even their overall health and wellness. For instance, babies might sleep more when they're going through a growth spurt or when they're not feeling well. It's essential to pay attention to these cues and adapt to changes in your baby's sleep patterns.

Understanding baby sleep cycles

If you thought only adults have sleep cycles, think again. Even babies experience sleep cycles, but they're far shorter than those of adults. Interestingly, babies spend more time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is a lighter phase of sleep often associated with dreaming. This REM sleep stage is believed to contribute to the immense mental and cognitive development happening during a baby's first few years.

How to establish a baby sleep schedule

Developing a baby sleep schedule isn't an overnight task – it takes time and patience. A sleep schedule or routine can guide your baby to distinguish between day and night, helping them understand when it's time to sleep. This routine can include soothing activities like a warm bath, a quiet story, or a lullaby. Remember, the goal is to make your baby feel secure and comfortable, readying them for a good night's sleep.

Signs of sleep problems in babies

As a parent, it's vital to recognize the signs of sleep problems in your baby. Some common signs can include frequent night awakenings, difficulties in falling asleep, snoring, or irregular breathing during sleep. Always consult your pediatrician if you notice any of these signs or if you're generally concerned about your baby's sleep.

It can be difficult to keep track of your baby's sleep, so it's a good idea to use a baby monitor that, in addition to video and audio streaming, stores sleep information in the Activity log that you can review and discuss with your pediatrician.

Safety tips for baby sleep

Ensuring your baby's safety during sleep is paramount. This includes laying your baby on their back to sleep, ensuring their crib is free of any loose bedding, blankets, pillows, or soft toys, and maintaining the room at a comfortable temperature. Read our safety tips for safe sleep.

7 interesting facts about baby sleep

Understanding your baby's sleep is not just about when and how long they sleep, but also about the fascinating intricacies and phenomena that accompany their slumber. Let's take a look at some!

1. Babies need sleep for brain development

Scientists have discovered that learning and brain growth occur during REM periods when information from waking hours is combined to form memories. The infant's brain expands by 1% per day throughout the first three months of life, which may help to explain why they spend so much time in REM sleep.

2. Newborns confuse day and night

Your kid will learn the difference between day and night by getting enough daylight and avoiding bright lights at night. Later on, it will help in controlling the melatonin synthesis that our bodies naturally release to initiate sleep.

3. To sleep well, a baby must be well rested

A baby who is well-rested will fall asleep more quickly and sleep better at night than a tired baby. Therefore, it is useless to try to deprive your baby of sleep during the day in order to get him to sleep better at night.

4. Light sleeping is good

Babies' lighter sleep is as important as annoying. It allows them to be awakened by hunger, pain, breathing difficulties, dirty diapers, and other situations they need assistance with.

5. Babies sleep a lot, parents don’t

Parents can lose up to 2 months of sleep during the first year.

6. Sleep evolves in time

Setting a regular baby sleep schedule takes time, but it is certainly worth the effort. The best way to help your baby to sleep soundly is to give it time. All babies eventually develop self-soothing skills and start sleeping for longer periods and more peacefully. Remember that next time you will try to put your baby to sleep again at 2 am and instead of being desperate, just enjoy the extra cuddles that come with this season.

7. Rice cereal for better sleep

There's a multitude of myths floating around baby sleep. Some believe that adding rice cereal to a baby's bottle will help them sleep longer. Unfortunately, this is just a myth. Solid foods or rice cereal have not been shown to enhance sleep duration or quality. In fact, a baby's digestive system is not equipped to handle solid foods until they are about six months old. The best way to improve your baby's sleep is by establishing consistent sleep habits and creating a conducive sleep environment.

Frequently asked questions

1. Why do babies fight sleep?
Babies might fight sleep if they're overtired, not feeling well, or going through a milestone or growth spurt. Sometimes, a lack of routine can also make it harder for babies to settle down.

2. Why do babies cry in their sleep?
Babies might cry in their sleep due to discomfort, nightmares, or a disruption in their sleep cycle. It's a good idea to wait for a few minutes before intervening to see if they can self-soothe.

3. At what age do babies sleep through the night?
While some babies might start sleeping through the night around three months of age, it's common for some babies to take a little longer. Remember, each baby is unique.

4. Do babies sleep more when teething?
Some babies might sleep more when teething, while others may have their sleep disrupted by the discomfort. Offering a teething toy or a cold washcloth can provide some relief.

5. Is co-sleeping safe?
Some types of co-sleeping are safe, while others may pose risks for an infant.


Understanding "how much should babies sleep" isn't just about numbers. It's about acknowledging the intricacies of baby sleep and adapting to their individual needs. Remember, every baby is unique, and their sleep patterns will reflect this uniqueness. Happy parenting!