How Many Hours Should A Newborn Sleep?

Sleep is an essential component for the healthy growth and development of a newborn, and parents often wonder just how much sleep their little one should be getting. Newborns typically require between 14 to 17 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period. This sleep is not continuous, however, as newborns have small stomachs that require frequent feedings. Hence, sleep is commonly dispersed in intervals ranging from 2 to 4 hours.

Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns

Sleep patterns for newborns are quite different from children and adults. It’s important to recognize that, for babies, the sleep cycle is divided into two primary stages: active sleep and quiet sleep. Newborns spend approximately half of their sleeping hours in active sleep, which is similar to the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage adults experience. This is a lighter form of sleep where dreaming occurs and the baby may twitch, grimace, or suck intermittently. The other half is spent in quiet sleep, which resembles the non-REM sleep stages in adults and is more restful.

Periods of Wakefulness

In between these sleep stages, newborns have periods of wakefulness which are short but gradually increase as the baby grows. Initially, a newborn may only be awake for brief periods of 30 minutes to an hour, but by the end of the first month, they could have more pronounced periods of alertness, lasting 1 to 3 hours. During these times, newborns benefit from bonding with parents and engaging in gentle stimulation that is appropriate for their developmental stage.

How Feedings Impact Sleep

Feedings play a significant role in a newborn’s sleep schedule. Due to their small stomach size, newborns need to feed every 2 to 3 hours, including through the night. This frequent need to eat affects their sleep patterns, causing them to alternate between sleeping and waking throughout a 24-hour period. As they grow, their stomach capacity increases, allowing for longer stretches of sleep.

Creating a Healthy Sleep Environment

While you can’t do much to influence how often a newborn awakens for feedings, you can create a conducive sleep environment that promotes better sleep.

Comfortable Sleeping Area

Ensure your baby has a comfortable, flat, and firm sleeping surface, such as a crib or bassinet that meets current safety standards. Use a fitted sheet without any loose bedding, pillows, or stuffed animals to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Consistent Sleep Routine

Establishing a bedtime routine even for a newborn can signal to your baby that it’s time for sleep. This routine may include a bath, a gentle massage, soft music, or reading a book. Keeping it consistent helps to create sleep cues for your baby.

Understanding Sleep Cues

Babies often show signs of sleepiness such as fussing, yawning, or rubbing their eyes. Learning to recognize these cues can help you put your baby down to sleep before they become overtired.

Dealing with Sleep Challenges

Parents may face various challenges regarding their newborn’s sleep. From adjusting to the baby’s sleep patterns to managing their own sleep deprivation, here are some common issues and how to navigate them.

Irregular Sleep Schedules

Newborns have yet to develop their circadian rhythms – the internal clock that regulates the cycle of sleep and wakefulness. This lack of a sleep schedule can be hard for parents to adjust to. Being patient and understanding that it is a normal part of newborn development is essential.

Managing Your Sleep

Parents should try to sleep when the baby sleeps. This might mean taking short naps throughout the day to compensate for interrupted night-time sleep. Remember, caring for oneself is crucial to being able to care for a newborn effectively.

Asking for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family or friends. Sharing nighttime duties or having someone watch the baby while you rest can be invaluable.

The Evolution of a Newborn’s Sleep

As infants grow, their sleep patterns begin to evolve. By the time they reach 3-4 months of age, many babies begin sleeping longer at night and have fewer daytime naps.

Extended Night-time Sleep

Around the 3- or 4-month mark, some babies may start sleeping for stretches of 5 to 6 hours at night. This is a sign that they’re starting to understand the difference between night and day, and their stomachs are able to hold more feeds, allowing them to feel fuller for longer.

Reducing Daytime Naps

While newborns may nap frequently throughout the day, as they grow older, the number of naps tends to decrease. Instead of several short naps, babies will start to have fewer, but longer, naps. This transition naturally happens as they begin to sleep more at night and stay awake for longer periods during the day.

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Finishing Thoughts

Newborn sleep is a complex and frequently challenging area for new parents to navigate. Understanding that newborns require 14 to 17 hours of sleep, connect with their unique sleep patterns, and supporting their needs can set the stage for healthier sleep habits in the future. Patience, consistency, and creating a safe sleep environment are key components to helping your newborn develop a healthy sleep pattern.

As babies grow and their sleeping habits change, it’s important for parents to adapt accordingly, seek support when necessary, and remember that each child is unique. Allowing yourself grace during this period and maintaining open communication with your pediatrician can ensure that both you and your baby find your way to a restful night’s sleep.


  • Ollie Lane

    My name is Ollie Lane, the zestful spirit and sleep enthusiast editor at GoodSleepHub. Blending my expertise in Sleep Technology with a dash of whimsy, I'm all about transforming your nights from blah to ta-da! I believe great sleep is a blend of science, art, and a bit of fairy dust. When I'm not knee-deep in the latest sleep gadgetry or jotting down notes for my next blog post, you can find me strumming on my ukulele or chasing after my mischievous beagle, Benny. My approach to sleep is like my music: playful, innovative, and always in tune with your needs.

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