Want To SLEEP LIKE A BABY? (Understand The Sleep Pattern Of A Newborn)

We always hear people talk about sleeping like a baby when they think they have a deep and sound sleep. But do adults and babies share similar sleep patterns? Can we really sleep like a baby? The quick answer is: No.  During different stages of life, our sleep pattern changes, especially during the first few years in our life. From newborn to early childhood, there is a significant difference in the length of sleep required and the pattern of our sleep.


Generally speaking, newborns sleep 14-17 hours over a 24-hour period. Some may even sleep up to 20 hours. They do not have a sense of day and night and wake up only for feeding every few hours. Most babies do not begin sleeping through the night (6 to 8 hours) without waking until they are at least 3 months old. However, this varies considerably and some babies do not sleep through the night until closer to their first birthday.

Babies start to develop an adult-like sleep pattern after the first 3 months and each of their sleep cycle includes longer stretches of deep sleep. It is still common for multiple daytime naps at this age and the amount of nap times varies. By the time they reach their toddler stage, most of them spend less time napping, typically 1-2 naps with a total 11-14 hours of sleep in a day.

How Much Sleep Does A Baby Need



On average, an adult goes through 4 to 5 sleep cycles per night, each lasting about 90-100 minutes. However, newborns have a much shorter sleep cycle (approximately 45mins). The sleep pattern of a newborn is not affected by the alternation of day and night. This is mainly because newborns have not developed their circadian rhythm. Instead, their sleep time is broken up into a 3-4 hours periods. The main reason that they wake up is for the need of nutrients. Newborns and infants spend about 50% of their sleeps in REM sleep (Rapid-Eye-Movement Sleep stage), which is double the proportion for adults.

There are 2 types of sleep stages: REM sleep and Non-REM sleep.

* REM sleep (Active sleep) : Rapid-Eye-Movement sleep stage. At this stage, your body is relaxed and active at the same time. This stage usually lasts for 15-20 minutes.

* Non-REM sleep: Non-Rapid-Eye-Movement sleep stage. It includes 4 stages:

Stage 1: Drowsiness. At this stage, your body is relaxed and starting to fall asleep. This stage usually lasts for 7-12 minutes.

Stage 2: Light sleep. At this stage, your eyes and muscle slow down movements. Your body is unlikely to react to light or noise, unless it is extremely bright or loud. This stage may last for 30-40 minutes.

Stage 3/4: Slow & Deep sleep. At this stage, you (almost) stop moving, not waking up easily. Your body produces a hormone for growth and reinforce immune system and your brain forms memories. This stage typically lasts for about 30 minutes.


* Newborns/Infants (0-6 months): Each sleep cycle lasts for approximately 45-60 minutes. Lots of REM sleep (up to 50% of the total sleep time).

Newbown Sleep Cycle


* Babies (6-12 months): Babies start to develop a circadian rhythm. Most babies start to have longer stretches stretches of night time sleep and may be able to transition between sleep cycles without parental involvement. Night time feeding is still common and some babies may experience sleep regression and more needs for parental contact at night due to separation anxiety.

Baby Sleep Cycle


* Children: As children grow older, the average amount of sleep they get every day declines, from 14-16 hours when they are 6 months old, to 11-14 when they are 2 years old, and then to around 12 (10 hours at night and a 2-hour nap in the daytime) when they are 3-5 years old. The proportion of REM sleep declines rapidly until age 4, when it stabilizes at a similar level as a young adult’s: about 20 to 25% of the total sleep time. Children around 10 years old sleep just about 10 hours per night.

Children Sleep Cycle


* Young Adults: Teenagers needs about 8.5-9 hours of sleep every day. The amount of sleep time is similar but still a bit longer than that of an adult. Teenager’s biological clock also makes them stay awake later at night and wake up later in the morning.

Young Adult Sleep Cycle



* Proportion of each sleep stages in total sleep time:

Duration of Sleep Stages - Newborn


Duration of Sleep Stages - Adult


* Summary of key differences:

Difference in Newborn and Adult Sleep Cycles

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