Sleep is one of your baby's primary activities. This is because babies process new information and recharge their batteries for the next day while they sleep. Parents are often concerned with the question of whether their baby is getting enough sleep or whether their baby is even sleeping too much. So, under what circumstances do babies sleep a lot and how much sleep is normal for a newborn?
How much sleep do babies need?
Before we get to the bottom of how much sleep babies need, we should first note that every baby is different and develops at their own speed. The timeframe indicated in this article is by no means a standard that every baby should be expected to follow, but should merely serve as a guideline that parents can use to give them a general idea of their child’s sleep behavior.
Newborns and sleep
Newborns sleep almost the entire day, spending an average of sixteen to eighteen hours asleep. However, newborns don’t sleep the entire sixteen hours in one stretch; rather, their sleep is divided into four to six sleep phases. In the time between those phases, newborns wake up repeatedly to nurse or discover the world. The sleep phases are about the same length in the first few days after birth, but gradually shift further and further into the night as your baby gets bigger.
So, why do newborns sleep so much? It has to do with the development of their little brains and bodies. They’re in a rapid growth phase, which requires a great deal of effort and energy expenditure. At night, babies recharge their empty batteries, so they have enough energy to discover the world and learn new facts.
A newborn’s sleep rhythm
Another reason why newborns wake up so often is their lack of a day-night rhythm. In the time immediately after they’re born, babies remain in their prenatal rhythm, which was free of the switch between night and day. So, for about the first two to four weeks, you can expect this rhythm to continue before your baby’s sleep becomes longer at night time.
Like adults, babies go through different stages as part of their sleep cycle. Adult sleep has five phases, in which the dream phase takes up about 25% of one’s total sleep time. The dream phase takes up more than one-third of a newborn’s sleep, however, making the deep sleep phase much shorter. As a result, newborns are more easily awakened when they feel hungry or need their diaper to be changed.
Sleep in 2 to 3-month-old babies
In the second to third month, the length of time your baby sleeps becomes shorter; they become more alert and spend more hours awake. Generally, babies at this age spend fourteen to seventeen hours a day asleep. However, as they are not yet able to sleep through the night during the first few months, you can expect your baby to wake up once or even more often per night. Most babies at this time learn to distinguish day from night.
Consequently, their sleep phases shift further into the night time. However, babies up to three months of age still sleep at very irregular schedules and it is thus still too early to expect a baby to have a fixed naptime.
Sleep in 3 to 6-month-old babies
Babies aged three to six months usually take two to three shorter naps and sleep a total of about twelve to fifteen hours a day. By this time, the babies of some lucky parents even spend about six hours asleep at night. A child who sleeps for an uninterrupted six hours at night is considered to sleep through the night.
Babies at this age are increasingly able to distinguish between night and daytime and only need a nap in the morning hours and again in the afternoon. In the second half of their first year of life, the amount of time they spend asleep is about 13 hours, with babies sleeping for several hours at a time.
From 6 months to the first birthday
Babies who are about six to twelve months old sleep an average of fourteen hours a day, with about ten of those hours taking place at night. At this age, naps are taken only once or twice a day. Starting around nine months, a single nap at naptime is enough for most babies. The nap times usually regulate themselves at this point; some parents try to keep their baby awake longer at noon or in the evening so that he or she falls asleep more quickly.
Since every child is different and develops according to his or her own rhythm, sleep should not be imposed. It’s typically much more effective to watch your child for common signs of sleepiness, such as increased eye rubbing, yawning, thumb sucking or staring off into space. The sleep-wake rhythm becomes more defined gradually, so restless nights are not uncommon.
Sleep in babies from the age of two
As babies get older, their sleep phases become shorter and shorter. Babies in the second year of life need about ten to thirteen hours of sleep and some already manage without a nap, though this is rather rarely the case.
In order to keep an exact overview of your baby's sleeping habits, we recommend creating a sleep log for your baby. This will allow you to keep a precise record of the times at which your baby frequently wakes up and how the sleep phases gradually change.
My baby sleeps a lot after a growth spurt
As mentioned earlier, developing and growing takes a lot of energy. For this reason, it is not uncommon for the baby to sleep what may seem an excessive amount to an adult, especially when a growth spurt is imminent. A growth spurt refers to the different stages when babies develop new skills.
Babies go through about eight growth spurts in their first fourteen months of life, lasting about a week. These take a lot out of your baby, who is therefore likely to sleep more than usual before a growth spurt. Babies are also more sensitive to their surroundings at this time, and may whine and fuss more often than was previously typical.
Growth spurts are part of a baby's normal development and should not be a cause for concern. During this phase, most babies want more attention and support from their parents, so make sure to include extra cuddling sessions during this time.
My baby sleeps a lot after a vaccination
Your baby’s body has to recover after a vaccination. As a result, they may sleep longer and may even drink less. This is perfectly normal; after one or two days, they’ll settle down and the previous sleeping rhythm should re-establish itself. After a vaccination, it is best to let your child sleep to allow them to recover from the effort.
Zizzz makes products to help your baby get a good night’s sleep
At Zizzz, the well-being of you and your children is of the utmost importance to us. As restful sleep is an essential component of good health, we at Zizzz offer baby sleeping bags that provide a safe and relaxed sleeping environment.
Our four seasons sleeping bags are available in different sizes and can be worn by children up to the age of six years. These sleeping bags are made from GOTS-certified organic cotton and pure virgin sheep’s wool shorn from happy sheep raised in the Swiss Alps, which are completely free of pesticides or other chemicals.
For the summer, we have special summer sleeping bags for babies and toddlers, made of just one layer of soft, organic cotton. These are breathable and moisture-wicking, so you don’t have to worry about finding a sweaty baby when you remove the baby sleeping bag. Our summer sleeping bag can be worn by children up to the age of six, just like our four seasons baby sleeping bag.