How Long Should A Newborn Sleep At Night?

Newborns typically need a lot of sleep, usually around 14 to 17 hours over a 24-hour period, with sleep broken up into multiple stretches. At night, a newborn may sleep for periods of 2-4 hours at a time. As they grow, these stretches can gradually become longer.

Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns

Newborn babies have not yet developed a sense of night and day, which is referred to as the circadian rhythm. This lack of a fully formed sleep schedule means that newborn sleep can be erratic, with frequent awakenings for feedings and comfort.

Periods of Sleep

For the first few weeks, babies may sleep for short periods of 2 to 4 hours throughout the night and day. It’s important to note that breastfeeding babies may wake up more frequently for feedings than formula-fed babies, although this can vary between individual infants.

Total Sleep Hours

Though the total amount of sleep is more critical than the specific sleep stretches, making sure your newborn gets enough total sleep is crucial for their development. Newborns should get a total of 14 to 17 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, though some may need more or less sleep.

The Role of REM Sleep

Newborns spend more time in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which is thought to be essential for the incredible brain development occurring during the first few months of life. Newborns enter REM sleep immediately instead of after a period of deeper, non-REM sleep like older children and adults.

Proportion of REM Sleep

Infants may spend approximately 50% of their sleep time in REM sleep compared to just about 20-25% for adults. This sleep stage is when dreaming occurs and is associated with processing emotions and solidifying memories.

Creating a Safe Sleep Environment

For newborns, practicing safe sleep is paramount. A safe sleep environment reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related hazards.

Safe Sleep Recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep on their backs on a firm sleep surface, without any soft bedding, such as pillows, crib bumpers, stuffed animals, or blankets. Room-sharing without bed-sharing is recommended for at least the first six months.

How to Support Newborn Sleep

While it’s not possible to enforce a strict sleep schedule with a newborn, there are strategies that parents can use to encourage longer and safer sleep stretches.

Feeding and Sleep

Ensuring that your newborn is well-fed before bedtime may encourage longer sleep stretches. However, be prepared for night feeds, as newborns need to eat frequently.

The Importance of Swaddling

Some infants find comfort in swaddling, which can soothe them and potentially help them sleep longer. Ensure you’re swaddling correctly to prevent any risks, such as hip dysplasia or overheating.

Room Temperature and Clothing

A comfortable room temperature and appropriate sleep clothing can also help your newborn sleep better. Overdressing or underdressing your baby can lead to discomfort and frequent awakenings.

Dealing With Sleep Deprivation for Parents

The irregular sleep patterns of newborns can take a toll on parents’ sleep and overall well-being. It’s important for parents to find ways to cope with sleep deprivation.

Taking Shifts and Napping

Parents might take shifts to watch over the baby, allowing each other to get some uninterrupted sleep. Catching up on sleep through naps when the baby sleeps can also be beneficial.

Seeking Support

Enlisting the help of family members or a postpartum doula can give parents a much-needed break to rest and recover from the demands of newborn care.

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When to Seek Medical Advice

If you’re concerned about your newborn’s sleep patterns or overall health, it’s crucial to reach out to a healthcare professional.

Signs to Watch For

Excessive sleepiness, difficulties waking your newborn for feedings, or signs of respiratory distress are all reasons to contact your baby’s pediatrician.

Establishing Regular Check-ups

Regular wellness visits with your newborn’s doctor can provide opportunities to discuss sleep concerns and to ensure that your infant is developing normally.

Finishing Thoughts

Understanding the nuances of newborn sleep can help new parents adjust their expectations and develop strategies for improving sleep for the whole family. Remember that every baby is unique, and what works for one newborn may not work for another. Most importantly, the focus should be on providing a safe sleeping environment and ensuring that your baby gets enough sleep for healthy growth and development. As time progresses and your newborn grows, they will begin to sleep for longer periods, and a more predictable sleep pattern will emerge. Practice patience, and don’t hesitate to seek support and medical advice when needed.


  • 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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