Stressful Nights: Understanding Your Baby’s Sleep Cycle

The Baby Sleep Book by William Sears et al, with a forward by Dr James McKennaHere’s a well-known fact: Your baby needs more sleep than you do. In fact, babies spend two-thirds of their day sleeping to help their brain make the proper connections. This only happens during sufficient sleep time.

However, your baby’s sleep is often interrupted making you sleepless at night. It’s not because they can’t sleep a full, long stretch but because they need to wake up to be fed or be made comfortable (changing time).

Usually, the average time your baby will sleep is be between 14-16 hours. Their sleeping routine starts out with short sleep and wake cycles with longer wake-up cycles during the night for feeding and changing time. But then as your baby grows older, their sleeping time is gradually reduced, as are their night wakings. By the time that they’re 18-24 months old, their sleeping hours have likely been reduced to 11-13 hours.

The stages of your baby’s sleep

Just like the normal adult, your babies experience different stages of sleep. To understand that better here’s the order of your baby’s sleep cycle:

  1. Drowsiness your baby’s droopy eyes is a good indication that they would go into light sleep.
  2. Light sleep this is just your baby relaxing and preparing to enter into quiet sleep.
  3. Quiet sleep or NREM this is the between stage from light and deep sleep where dreams can also happen. In older children this stage of sleep is where sleepwalking and nightmares usually occurs. As for babies, this stage is mostly a non-dream state that is shorter and is well developed in newborns rather than adults.
  4. Deep sleep by this time your baby will be deep into sleeping and is actually dreaming.
  5. Dream or REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep most babies spend 50%-80% of their bedtime on REM sleep. Premature babies spend a lot more time in REM sleep than full term babies accounting to 80% compared to 50% of the latter. While an adult dreams for an average of two hours, babies can accumulate a total of eight hours of dream sleep alone.

It’s very important for you to understand the stages of your child’s sleep because that is how you will understand their movements while they have their eyes shut.

Babies in REM sleep tend to have the occasional twitch, irregular breathing and eyes darting back and forth under the eyelids while having their bodies completely still. During quiet sleep or NREM, babies will have deep and regular breathing. However, you may notice your babies give a start, move their arms, legs or suddenly suck their fingers or do similar actions during this time, but these movements known as hypnagogic startles and are very normal. Sometimes, your babies will even open their eyes and look like they’re already awake but actually they’re not. They are still truly asleep and only need a minute or two to get back to their sleeping cycle. Don’t disturb your babies right away and let them sleep by themselves.

Usually, after entering REM sleep, your babies will go back again to the deep sleep cycle and quiet sleep before waking up. Unlike adults, who have an average 90 minutes sleep cycle (though it varies through the night), your baby will have a complete sleep cycle of about 50 minutes.

So now that you know exactly how your baby sleeps, the next thing to do would be to develop good sleeping habits and bedtime routines for them to ensure that they get to enjoy a good night’s sleep and that you get enough sleep too.

Eliminate Bedtime Frustration with These Tips to Help Your Child Get to Sleep Faster

no cry sleep soluton by elizabeth pantley happy babies sleeping

(This is a guestpost from the author of

Gentle ways to stop bedtime battles and improve your child's sleep The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child's Sleep by Elizabeth Pantley, with a forward by Harvey Karp (Foreword) I know I am not the only one who has been played, almost on a nightly basis by my young children at bedtime. You just get them down, tucked nice and cozy in their bed and begin to meander back down the hall with an excitement similar to that of a child’s on Christmas Eve of what you are going to do with the next couple of hours that you have to yourself, and then……it starts:

“I forgot to get a drink, I need to go to the bathroom, I forgot to brush my teeth, I’m scared, I need to say my prayers, I had a bad dream…”  (even though they haven’t even been to sleep yet) and the list goes on and on. The excuses are pretty much the same ones that you used as a kid. So, there has to be an answer to this nighttime nonsense, right? Here are a few strategies that havebeen helpful to me:

  1. Consistent Bedtimes: Kids need to know what to expect. If their bedtime is constantly changing, it will be hard for them to take you seriously when you say it is bedtime. Sometimes events come up that may alter bedtime a little bit, but for the most part, once a time is established, it should be adhered to. Our kids are still in grade school, so we prefer to put them all to bed at the same established time of 8:30 pm., however, staggering bedtimes based on age is another option as well. Providing a little leeway on the weekends, I have found, gives them something to look forward to and even helps them accept the earlier weekday time.
  2. Routines Rule: Establishing a nighttime routine that the child can go through each night will ensure that everything on the checklist gets checked long before the covers are pulled up. It takes some dedication and a small time commitment, but it will go a long way to eliminate the repeated tuck in game. The things that I like to include in my kids bedtime routine are reading a book , getting a final drink, going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, saying prayers, and of course saying goodnight and easing any concerns about open closets or other things that are “scaring” them.
  3. Offer Incentives for Staying in Bed: One that my kids enjoy is being allowed to read in their bed for a few minutes before lights out, or listening to soft, quiet music to help them fall asleep. We also will give them rewards such as special nights of storytelling, or being able to have a slumber party in the living room, or a movie night, if they go to bed well during the week.

If you’re like me, seeing your kids sleeping peacefully is a beautiful sight. Never do they seem more sweet and innocent and wonderful, it’s just getting them there that can be challenging.

Once you find that perfect routine or incentive that will make it happen smooth and seamlessly, you will be able to slip in that extra activity that always seems to take a back seat, like exercise. You could then stop by my blog for some great information on top rated home gym pieces.

Your Baby’s Sleep: from Birth to Six Months

Cover of The Baby Book, by William and Martha SearsThe difference between a well-rested child and a sleep-deprived one is quite significant.  Well-rested babies are more quiet, behaved and pleasant to be with.  Ironically, sleep-deprived ones turn more boisterous and hyperactive than usual – unlike adults who have low energy levels with little sleep.  This article will provide you with facts about your baby, and his sleeping patterns and needs from birth to six months.

In newborns, the internal clock that regulates sleep has yet to develop. They sleep between 16 to 20 hours a day, with no distinction between day and night.  It is up to the parents to teach them the difference: daytime is for playing and other activities while night time is for sleep and rest.  You can do this by exposing him to the noise of daily household activities during the day and keeping lighting and other stimulation to a minimum when it is time to settle down for the night.

For the first few weeks, newborns should be awakened for feedings every three to four hours; at least until an adequate weight gain is established.  After the initial period, babies learn to wake up whenever hungry and can be allowed to sleep through the night.  It must be made clear though, that for newborns, sleeping through the night generally means sleeping straight for about four to five hours at a stretch.  This basically depends on length of time that they can go without feedings, which isn’t long because of their small tummies.  The less frequently they wake up during the night, the more often they would feed during the day.

By three to six months, your baby will be sleeping for about five hours during daytime and ten hours at night, although this will still be punctuated by feedings every so often.  Do not rush to pick him up as soon as he makes a sound – try to let him put himself back to sleep.  Unless he is cold, or hungry or wet give him a minute or two to settle back down.  Sometimes during light sleep, babies make some noises that make it seem as if they are awake although they are not. If you do need to comfort him, make it clear that you are only helping him go back to sleep.  Do not play, or talk or turn on the lights.  You can try making soothing sounds, or patting him lightly on the back.

Start establishing a sleep routine at this time to foster good sleeping patterns.  A sleeping routine is a consistent series of activities that lead towards going to bed for sleep.  Some parents start off with a warm bath and a change into sleep clothes, then a feeding and a half-hour of quiet play (which can also be a good chance for bonding time with  daddy who has been stuck in the office for the whole day), wrapping in a favourite baby blanket, then lights out.

This article was witten by Joana Chrystal Ventura-Moises.  She is a work-at-home mom, a registered nurse and a resident expert on plumbing and shower screen installations.

Elizabeth Pantley has more child and baby sleep tips for you.