How Long Do Newborns Sleep A Day?

Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns

Newborns typically sleep a lot, averaging around 14 to 17 hours a day. This can vary from baby to baby, with some sleeping as much as 18 to 19 hours. Nevertheless, don’t expect these hours to be continuous; newborns have short, irregular sleep cycles, waking up every 2 to 4 hours to feed.

The Distribution of Sleep in the Early Weeks

The First Two Weeks

Right after birth, newborns are adjusting to life outside the womb and might sleep for shorter spells of about two to four hours over a 24-hour period. These early weeks are characterized by sleep that’s evenly distributed throughout the day and night since newborns have not yet developed a sense of night and day.

The Next Few Weeks

As newborns grow into their first month and beyond, they may begin to sleep for longer periods. However, most will still not exceed 4 to 5-hour stretches as their small stomachs require frequent feedings, including during the night.

The Quality of Newborn Sleep

REM and Non-REM Sleep

Newborn sleep is different from that of older children and adults. They spend more time in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which is a lighter form of sleep that is essential for the incredible development happening in their brains. Infants spend about 50% of their sleep time in REM sleep, gradually decreasing as they grow older.

The Transition to Quieter Sleep Phases

Around the age of two months, infants start to develop a more mature sleep pattern, with longer periods of Non-Rapid Eye Movement (Non-REM) sleep. This is the deeper, restful type of sleep. The transition into these phases can be a little rocky, and some parents notice more frequent waking during this time as their baby adjusts.

Coping with Interrupted Sleep

Feeding and Sleep Interruptions

The need for frequent feedings is a primary reason newborns wake up so often. In the beginning, babies may feed 8 to 12 times over a 24-hour period. This schedule impacts the amount of continuous sleep they—and their parents—can get.

Setting the Stage for Longer Sleep Stretches

By creating a conducive sleep environment and establishing a bedtime routine early on, parents can help their newborns begin to differentiate between night and day. This might involve dim lights and quiet activities at night and more interaction and light during the day.

Safe Sleep Practices for Newborns

Sleep Safety and SIDS Prevention

Alongside understanding how long newborns sleep, it’s important to ensure that sleep is safe. Parents should always put newborns on their backs to sleep, in a crib free of blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and bumpers to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Co-Sleeping Considerations

Some parents choose to co-sleep, keeping the baby in the same room, which can make nighttime feedings easier and is believed to reduce the risk of SIDS. However, co-sleeping should be done with caution: the baby should have a separate sleeping surface like a bassinet or a co-sleeper attached to the side of the bed.

When to Seek Help

Consulting a Pediatrician

While a wide range in the amount of sleep for newborns is normal, it’s essential to consult a pediatrician if you notice anything that seems off. This could include your baby sleeping significantly less than 14 hours a day, seeming excessively irritable, or showing difficulties in breathing while sleeping.

Monitoring Sleep Pattern Changes

If your baby has a sudden and significant change in their sleep patterns, it’s worth noting and talking to a healthcare provider. For instance, if they’re sleeping a lot more than the norm, or if they are unusually difficult to wake for feedings.

Finishing Thoughts

The sleep patterns of newborns are as unique as the babies themselves. While 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day is the average, each newborn’s sleep needs and patterns will differ. Ensuring a safe sleep environment and maintaining a consistent routine can help manage the unpredictable nature of newborn sleep. However, it’s also important for parents to take care of their own rest and seek support when needed. Keeping open communication with a pediatrician can provide reassurance and guidance in navigating the sleepy, and sometimes sleepless, world of new parenthood.

Author

  • Aiden Lawrence

    I'm Aiden Lawrence, a certified Sleep Science Coach and senior editor of GoodSleepHub, proud parent of two amazing kids, and a pet lover with a cat and a dog. Join me as we explore the world of sweet dreams and comfy pillows. Let's make bedtime the highlight of your day!

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