It’s no secret that babies sleep a lot. In fact, newborn babies often sleep for up to 17 hours a day. Unfortunately, they don’t get all of their sleep in one go, so parents often go back and forth to their new baby approximately every two hours to feed or change them.
Why are babies so restless?
In order to understand this, it can help to look at a normal adults’ sleeping cycle. Adults have regular sleep patterns that have four stages and which can last for hours on end (as we know, the suggested amount of sleep for an adult is 8 hours). Here’s a brief and easy-to-understand explanation of them:
- NREM stage 1: During this NERM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) stage people begin to nod off, it’s the period between being awake and being asleep.
- NREM stage 2: The sleeper goes into a deeper sleep that can be harder to wake them from.
- NREM stage 3: Also known as SWS (Slow Wave Sleep), in this stage the sleeper is able to ignore outside stimuli, such as noise.
- REM stage 4: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is the deepest stage of sleep, where it can sometimes be quite difficult to rouse the person. Sleepers consume more oxygen in this stage of sleep than when they’re awake, and this is often the period of sleep in which people dream.
Babies are able to go through all four of these sleep stages in just a couple of hours, so they wake up naturally much sooner than adults do. Babies also need to be fed around 12 times a day at the most, and their sleep cycles often synch to their feeding schedules. This means that they’ll need changing just as regularly, as most babies have bowel movements after each feed.
What does all of this mean? New parents will always suffer from lack of sleep.
What happens when a baby is sleeping?
During sleep, your baby’s body will be constantly developing. This is the time for brain growth and development, when connections are being made between neurons to record and analyse the events of the day.
In an experiment using baby birds, the chicks learnt to copy their mothers’ birdsong by listening to a tape recording of it. The chicks were then split into two groups, one of which was kept awake for a period of time after hearing the tape. The other group was allowed to go to sleep during that time, and the results of the experiment were quite amazing.
The birds that slept after hearing their mother’s birdsong managed to learn it much faster than those that didn’t, proving that sleep is vital for learning in newborns.
Your baby needs to get restful sleep in order to develop, but don’t be worried if they wake often throughout the night. As they grow older, they’ll begin to settle into a normal sleeping routine.
This article was written by Sam Rigby on behalf of Odd Mattress, a company that makes handmade mattresses of all shapes and sizes.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.