The Importance of Baby Sleep


It's not uncommon for newborn babies to sleep the day away, only staying awake for short periods. In fact, infants generally sleep between 16-18 hours in a 24 hour period. If you have or are expecting a baby who was born prematurely, it is likely they will sleep even more than a full term newborn. In today's blog, we are going over why this much baby sleep is critical for brain development.

Sleep deficits

When your child doesn’t get the sleep they need, there are many potential consequences that both parents and baby have to deal with as a result. One condition that can result is simply called being overtired. When a baby is overtired, they will exhibit a high degree of fussiness that may be highlighted by crying, screaming, and flailing. Unfortunately, the state of being overtired makes it more difficult for you to put your child to sleep rather than making it easier. For this reason, it is ill-advised to allow your child to become overtired in the evening and night hours. Baby sleep deprivation when your child is a little bit older can manifest itself as a lack of concentration. Since this lack of focus will only get worse as your child gets older, it is advisable to ensure they are getting enough sleep during these formative years.

Types of sleep

There are two basic types of sleep for human sleep cycles known as REM and non-REM sleep. REM sleep stands for rapid eye movement sleep and is defined as the light portion of the sleep cycle where the eyes move back and forth rapidly. This type of sleep gives rise to dreaming but is also when we are most likely to be awakened. Non-REM sleep is sometimes referred to as deep sleep and is the restorative portion of the sleep cycle where brain development and repair take place. It is crucial that your child spends enough time in this type of sleep to ensure proper development of brain function. Two of the main differences between baby and adult sleep cycles are the duration of each type of sleep and the overall length of the sleep cycle.

The average adult sleep cycle lasts approximately 90 minutes with the overwhelming majority of that time being spent in non-REM sleep. On the other hand, baby sleep cycles are more balanced with roughly half of their cycle being REM sleep and half being non-REM sleep. In part, this is one of the reasons why baby spends more time sleeping than adults. Additionally, baby sleep cycles typically last 50 to 60 minutes. When you couple the shorter sleep cycle with a lot of time spent in REM sleep, it is no wonder they can be awakened so easily. For more information on newborn sleep patterns check out this information from Stanford Children’s Hospital

Benefits of sleeping well

You may already know that sleep promotes growth but here are some other benefits to baby sleep you might not know. Sound sleep can protect kids from vascular damage from stress hormones that can be released as a result of brain arousal during sleep. Sleep also produces proteins that help fight infection, illness, and stress which helps your child remain healthy and happy. However, one of the best reasons to make your baby’s sleep a priority is the fact that babies learn in their sleep. Research performed at the Columbia University Medical Center has shown this to be true in babies as young as one or two days old.

Want to make sure your child gets off on the right foot with their sleep habits?  Contact us today about hiring one of our newborn care specialists to work with you and your little one on sleep training.