How Much Should Newborns Sleep a Day

Sleep is a natural need of our body and is crucial for the development of the brain during early childhood. Babies need 12-18 hours of sleep during the first few months after birth. Your baby's sleep revolves around being hungry, needing a diaper change, or your love and attention. However, they cannot remain awake for extended periods of time during this age. During the first years of life, the brain is most plastic, grows fastest and is most responsive to the outside world. Most of the brain’s neural pathways supporting communication, understanding, social development and emotional well-being grow rapidly in the first three years. Early childhood is a critical time for children to develop neurocognitive and intellectual abilities and sleep plays an important role in babies’ brain maturation, learning and memory, helping the brain to retain existing memories and create new ones. Furthermore, sleep improves language skills and also helps improve babies’ social skills, including the ability to form relationships and relate to others by being approachable and adaptable to their environment. It is known that lack of sleep can have serious consequences affecting cognitive, social, behavioral and emotional growth of the baby.

 

New-born babies sleep around the clock during the early months. They usually sleep a total of 10 to 18 hours a day where sleep periods can vary between 1-3 hours with some sleep periods lasting just few minutes as well. New-born babies do not sleep still; they often twitch their arms and legs, smile, suck and generally appear restless and active during their sleep.

 

New parents should learn to understand when the baby wants to sleep since their expression is not clear. Some babies fuss, cry, rub their eyes or indicate this need with individual gestures, which can be different for each child. Sometimes, you can confuse the need for sleep as hunger and feed the child, which can make them cranky while feeding. The best thing to do is to put the baby to bed when you feel they need sleep but not asleep. When they are put to bed when sleepy they will fall asleep quickly and also learn to go to sleep all by themselves. Some parents follow a pattern of making the baby fall asleep before putting them in crib or bed, which makes the baby dependent on them to go to sleep. Putting the baby in the crib when he/she is drowsy will encourage healthy sleeping habits in the baby. You should take care not to force the child to sleep during daytime as per your own needs or convenience. In fact, babies can be encouraged to sleep less during the day by exposing them to light and noise, and by playing more with them in the daytime. Change the environment to sleep friendly as evening approaches, by making it quieter and dimmer with less activity.

 

Observe your baby's sleep patterns and identify signs of sleepiness so that you can identify when the baby needs to be put on bed. The best sleeping position for the baby is to lay on his/her back with face and head clear of blankets. All soft toys or any other objects should be not near the head or face of the baby.

Babies sleep best when held because they feel warm and cozy just like in the womb. Moreover, the smell of the mother comforts the baby into a peaceful sleep. But many a times, during daytime naps, mothers are not always able to stay with the baby – you might want to take care of other chores while the baby is napping, get time to bathe/eat/sleep during this time etc. If your baby wants you close to him while napping, you can try wrapping him in your saree/shawl, or make a hammock with your saree within which he can nap, so your smell comforts him even if you are not right next to him.

 

During the first month of life, an infant's sleep is distributed almost equally across night and day. Soon enough infants develop the ability to sustain longer episodes of sleep and begin to consolidate sleep at night, gradually assuming a sleep pattern similar to that of adults by the time they reach 6 months of age. It is only around 10-12 weeks of age that the circadian rhythm begins to appear and the infant’s sleep becomes increasingly nocturnal, with longer bouts of night-time sleep complemented by three or four naps during the day.

 

There is no general pattern for sleeping in infants since two babies of the same age can have very different sleep patterns, from the time they fall asleep to the amount they sleep, to factors affecting their sleep. We cannot compare a child to another with respect to sleep.

 

Sleep Problems in Early Childhood

 

Most parents come to pediatricians with the complaint that their baby is not sleeping enough with sleep behaviors being the most common concerns. A child who goes to bed unwillingly or wakes frequently during the night can be highly disruptive to not just the primary caretaker but also to the whole family. The frequency of night waking is 100 percent for newborns but will fade off to approximately 20-30 percent by the time they are 6 month old. Difficulty falling asleep and night waking are the most common sleep problems during infancy and early childhood. The six common sleep disorders among children are

Insomnia

Sleep related breathing disorders

Hyper-somnia

Circadian rhythm sleep disorder

Para-somnia

Sleep related movement disorders

Sleeping behaviors of a baby are highly dependent on general health, bedroom ambience, secure feeling, family expectations and cultural norms.

 

Total sleep duration, number of night waking, daytime nap frequency and daytime sleep duration during early childhood

Age

Mean

Recommended sleep Total sleep duration (hours)

0-2 months

14.6

14-17

3 months

13.6

14-17

6 months

12.9

12-15

9 months

12.6

12-15

12 months

12.9

11-14

1-2 years

12.6

11-14

2-3 years

12.0

10-14

4-5 years

11.5

10-13

 

 

 

Number of night waking

 

0-2 months

1.7

3-6 months

0.8

7-11 months

1.1

1-2 years

0.7

 

Daytime nap frequency

 

0-5 months

3.1

6-11 months

2.2

1-2 years

1.7

 

Daytime sleep duration (hours)

6 months

3.4

9 months

2.8

12 months

2.4

18 months

2.0

2 years

1.8

3 years

1.7

4 years

1.5