How Long Newborn Sleep?

Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns

The amount of sleep a newborn requires can vary widely, but on average, newborns sleep a total of about 14 to 17 hours over a 24-hour period, with periods of wakefulness lasting between 1 to 3 hours. However, it’s crucial to remember that every newborn is unique, and some might sleep more or less than this average amount.

Factors Influencing Newborn Sleep Duration

Many factors can impact how long a newborn sleeps. These include their developmental stage, individual temperament, and the environment around them. For instance, in the early weeks, newborns have not yet developed a sense of night and day, which can influence their sleep patterns.

Typical Sleep Cycles in Newborns

Newborns experience shorter sleep cycles than adults. A full sleep cycle for a newborn can last around 40 to 50 minutes, and during this time, they move between active and quiet sleep. Active sleep is comparable to the REM (rapid eye movement) stage in adults and is when babies might twitch or smile. Quiet sleep is similar to non-REM sleep, during which the baby is still and restful.

Navigating through the First Weeks

The earliest weeks of a newborn’s life can be the most unpredictable as they adjust to life outside the womb. During this period, newborns may sleep in very short bursts throughout the day and night.

Weeks 1-2: Adjusting to the World

Newborns, in their first two weeks, can sleep for varying lengths of time throughout the day and night. They haven’t yet developed their circadian rhythm, which is the natural internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. In these weeks, it’s normal for a baby to wake up frequently for feedings, as their tiny stomachs can’t hold much milk at a time.

Weeks 3-6: The Development of Patterns

As newborns approach the 3 to 6 weeks mark, you might start to see the first signs of a sleep pattern emerging. They might begin to have slightly longer periods of wakefulness and could start to differentiate between day and night, although their sleep will still be primarily spread out over a 24-hour period.

Weeks 6-12: The Emergence of a Routine

By 6 to 12 weeks, some newborns can start to sleep for longer stretches at night, which could be up to 4 to 5 hours, though this is not consistent for all babies. The total amount of daytime sleep they require starts to decrease slightly as they stay awake for longer periods during the day.

Creating a Sleep-Conducive Environment

The environment a newborn sleeps in can also impact their sleep quality and duration. Ensuring that the sleep environment is conducive to rest is essential.

Comfortable Sleepwear and Bedding

Appropriate sleepwear is necessary for newborns. They should be dressed warmly, but not too warmly, to encourage comfortable rest. The use of a swaddle or sleeping bag can provide comfort and warmth without the risk of blankets covering the face.

Ambient Conditions

The room where the newborn sleeps should be kept at a comfortable temperature. Many experts recommend a temperature between 68-72°F (20-22°C). A room that is too hot or cold can lead to restless sleep. The room should also be dark or dimly lit to help encourage a baby’s developing circadian rhythm.

Noise Considerations

A quiet or white noise background can be beneficial. Consistent, low-level sound can help mask other household noises that might disturb a sleeping newborn.

Addressing Common Sleep Issues

Newborns may face several sleep issues. Recognizing and understanding these can help parents address them effectively.

Day-Night Confusion

A common issue is day-night confusion. To help newborns discern day from night, exposing them to daylight and normal daytime noises can be beneficial. At night, the environment should be kept calm and dark.

Sleep Regressions and Growth Spurts

Sleep regressions can occur when a baby who had previously been sleeping well suddenly starts waking more often during the night or has trouble falling asleep. These are often linked to growth spurts or developmental milestones. Patience and consistency are key during these phases.

Feeding and Sleep

The relationship between feeding and sleep is significant. Newborns need to eat frequently, and this necessity can disrupt sleep. Over time, as a baby’s stomach grows, this will become less of an issue. It’s often suggested to feed the baby right before bedtime to encourage longer sleep periods.

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Tips for Parents

Parents have a crucial role in supporting their newborn’s sleep patterns. Here’s what they can do:

Maintain a Routine

Try to establish a regular sleep routine as early as it is feasible. Consistency with bedtime and naptime routines can help signal to a baby that it’s time to sleep.

Watch for Sleepiness Cues

Observing and acting upon a baby’s sleep cues – such as fussing, yawning, or rubbing eyes – can help in getting them to sleep before they become overtired.

Encourage Self-Soothing

Encouraging newborns to self-soothe can set the stage for good sleep habits later on. This can include allowing the baby to fall asleep on their own at bedtime.

Ensure Safe Sleep Practices

Safety should always be a priority. This means placing a baby on their back to sleep, using a firm sleep surface, and keeping the crib free of soft toys, loose bedding, or pillows.

Finishing Thoughts

Newborn sleep is a complex topic because it varies so widely among different babies and changes rapidly as they grow. The key to navigating this period is flexibility, understanding, and patience. By creating a conducive sleep environment and being responsive to their newborn’s needs, parents can help establish healthy sleep patterns for their baby. It’s important to remember that this stage is temporary, and as exhausting as it can be for new parents, it will evolve before they know it. Always consult healthcare providers with any concerns about a newborn’s sleep as they can provide guidance tailored to individual situations.


  • Ashton Roberts

    I love learning and sharing everything about sleep. I am one of the energetic editors here at GoodSleepHub, where I talk about how to get a better night's sleep. When I'm not writing, I'm probably walking my dog Luna or trying out new sleeping gadgets. My goal is to help you sleep easier and better. Join me, and let's find simple ways to enjoy great sleep every night!

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