Home » Sleep Hygiene » Sleep Hygiene for Newborns and Infants

Sleep Hygiene for Newborns and Infants

About the Author

Andrew McDowell

Andrew McDowell, MMS, PA-C, is an experienced clinician with over 10 years of practice in emergency medicine and critical care. He has a specialized…

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Newborns typically require 14 to 17 hours of sleep daily, with sleep patterns changing as they grow.
Infants’ sleep is fragmented in the early months due to the need for frequent feedings.
Establishing a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine can improve sleep quality for infants.
Creating a safe sleep environment is crucial to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The ideal room temperature for infant sleep is between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 degrees Celsius).
Sleep sacks are recommended over traditional blankets to prevent risks like suffocation.
Infant sleep cycles include stages of REM and non-REM sleep, important for development.
Back sleeping is the safest position for infants to minimize the risk of SIDS.
Parents should consult healthcare professionals for personalized advice on infant sleep.
Sleep Hygiene for Infrants

Newborns have unique sleep needs and patterns that differ significantly from older children and adults. Typically, newborns sleep for about 14 to 17 hours over a 24-hour period, with sleep divided almost equally between rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM stages. Unlike adults, newborns do not follow a sleep schedule linked to the time of day for the first two months of life. Their sleep is fragmented into short bursts of 2 to 3 hours throughout the day and night due to their small stomachs that require frequent feedings.

During non-REM sleep, newborns go through four stages: drowsiness, light sleep, deep sleep, and very deep sleep. The sleep cycle of a newborn is approximately 40 minutes, often requiring assistance to settle back to sleep after each cycle. While most babies do not begin sleeping through the night, defined as 6 to 8 hours straight, until they are at least 3 months old, this can vary widely among individuals.

As infants grow, their sleep patterns will change, including the number of hours of sleep needed and the duration of sleep periods. By around 2 months old, sleep begins to consolidate, and many babies start sleeping through the night between the ages of 4 and 6 months. It’s important for parents to understand these patterns to manage expectations and to support their newborn’s development effectively.

Establishing a sleep schedule for infants is crucial for their development and overall well-being. Newborns typically sleep for 12 or more hours a day, often in short bursts of one to two hours, with no distinct pattern initially. As they grow, infants begin to stay awake for longer periods and sleep for longer stretches. By around 2 months, sleep starts to consolidate, and many babies can sleep through the night between 4 and 6 months of age. It’s important to note that preterm babies may have different sleep needs compared to full-term infants.

Experts suggest that implementing a consistent bedtime routine sets the stage for good sleeping habits. This could include activities like feeding, bathing, reading stories, or playing soft music. A regular sleep schedule, where the child goes to sleep at the same time each night, is also recommended. During the day, an eat-wake-sleep (EWS) cycle is often beneficial, starting with shorter intervals that gradually lengthen as the baby grows. Utilizing such routines and schedules can help infants learn to fall asleep independently and improve sleep quality for both the babies and their parents.

It’s essential for parents to remember that each baby is unique, and there is a wide range of normal sleep behaviors. However, establishing a routine early on can be key to healthy sleep in the present and for years to come. Consistency and patience are vital as infants learn to adapt to these routines.

Optimal Sleep Setup for Newborns

Newborns have unique sleep needs that vary widely. During the first months of life, they generally require about 14 to 17 hours of sleep each day, although this can range from as few as 11 to as many as 19 hours. This sleep is not continuous; newborns typically sleep in short bursts of 1 to 2 hours due to the need for frequent feedings. This pattern is influenced by their small stomach capacity, which necessitates waking every few hours to eat. Most newborns do not start sleeping through the night (6 to 8 hours) without waking until they are about 3 months old or weigh 12 to 13 pounds.

Creating a safe sleep environment is crucial. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends placing babies on their backs for all sleep times, naps, and at night, to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This position is considered safe even if a baby spits up during sleep, as their anatomy and gag reflex help prevent choking.

Recognizing a baby’s tired cues, such as crying, fussing, or turning away from lights or feeding, is important for parents and caregivers to ensure that the baby is put down to sleep when needed. By the end of the first year, the amount of sleep required typically decreases to about 14 hours every 24 hours.

Understanding Excessive Sleep in Newborns

Newborns are known for their need for substantial amounts of sleep, but there can be concerns when a baby seems to sleep too much. While most newborns sleep approximately 14 to 17 hours per day, it is essential for parents to recognize the signs that may indicate a deviation from normal sleep patterns. Sudden changes in sleep habits, such as increased wakefulness, could signal underlying issues like ear infections or growth spurts. Additionally, sleep disturbances might occur due to developmental changes or overstimulation.

Excessive sleep in newborns, beyond the typical 14 to 17 hours, should be monitored as it can be an indicator of other health concerns. In the first 24 hours after birth, infants may sleep more due to birth-related exhaustion, hormones, and maternal medications. However, as they grow, the total amount of sleep generally decreases. Parents should observe their newborn’s sleeping schedule and consult healthcare professionals if they notice any unusual sleeping patterns. Poor sleep in infancy has been linked to issues such as increased adiposity, emotional regulation difficulties, and cognitive performance problems later in childhood.

It’s also important to ensure that the sleep environment is conducive to safe and healthy sleep, and that newborns are getting the right balance of sleep and wakefulness to support their rapid development. If parents are concerned about their newborn’s sleep patterns, they should seek advice from a pediatrician or a qualified infant sleep specialist.

Creating an optimal sleep environment is crucial for newborns and infants, as it can significantly reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related dangers. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Safe to Sleep® campaign, a safe sleep area is essential in mitigating these risks. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also emphasizes the importance of a safe sleep setting in preventing SUID (Sudden Unexplained Infant Death).

To ensure a safe sleep environment for your infant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends placing babies on their backs for all sleep times, both naps and at night. This position has been shown to help prevent choking, even when a baby spits up during sleep, due to their anatomy and gag reflex. Room temperature is another critical factor, with a recommended range of 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 Celsius) for infants, as a cooler room promotes deeper and less fragmented sleep.

Moreover, the sleep environment should be cozy yet not cramped, allowing for easy access to your infant when needed. Ensuring the sleep area is free from soft bedding, pillows, and toys can decrease the chances of accidental suffocation, entrapment, or strangulation. The Canadian Paediatric Society also supports the back-sleeping position for infants under one year to further lower the risk of SIDS.

By adhering to these guidelines and creating a safe, soothing sleep sanctuary, parents and caregivers can foster restful nights and healthy sleep habits for their babies, setting the foundation for their growth and development.

Ideal Room Temperature for Newborn Sleep

Maintaining the correct room temperature for newborns is crucial for their safety and sleep quality. Experts, including those from the Cleveland Clinic and the Sleep Foundation, agree that the ideal temperature range for a baby’s room should be between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18-21 degrees Celsius). This range is believed to not only support restful sleep but also contribute to the cognitive and physical development of infants.

Furthermore, consistent recommendations across various authoritative sources, such as Pampers and Verywell Family, suggest that the room temperature should ideally be kept between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 22 degrees Celsius). This temperature regulation is an important step in the prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and ensuring that babies sleep safely, as highlighted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It is often challenging to accurately judge the room temperature, so using a room thermometer is advisable, as suggested by The Lullaby Trust. Light bedding or a lightweight, well-fitting baby sleep bag is recommended for a comfortable and safe sleep environment within the advised temperature range.

Maximizing Newborn Safety and Comfort: The Benefits and Considerations of Sleep Sacks

Sleep sacks, often recommended by pediatric experts, serve as a safer alternative to traditional blankets for newborns. The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses sleep sacks for their snug fit and ability to stay clear of the neck and face, thus reducing the risk of strangulation or suffocation. Unlike loose bedding, sleep sacks are designed to provide a secure sleeping environment without covering the baby’s head, contributing to a significant reduction in sleep-related risks such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Riley Children’s Health points out that sleep sacks offer a sense of security reminiscent of the womb and can be particularly effective in calming fussy babies. They also prevent the startle reflex, which can wake a baby, by gently swaddling them. The Cleveland Clinic underscores the importance of sleeveless designs in sleep sacks, allowing infants the freedom to use their arms to reposition themselves if they roll over.

However, it’s crucial to select the correct size. An oversized sleep sack could ride up and cover the baby’s face, posing a suffocation hazard, while a too-small one might restrict necessary movement. Additionally, sleep sacks can protect against crib-related injuries by keeping the baby’s legs from getting caught between crib slats.

For optimal safety and comfort, Itzy Ritzy suggests placing the baby in the sleep sack with their arms through the armholes to ensure it is secure but not too tight. Room temperature should be regulated between 68°F and 72°F (20°C and 22°C) to maintain comfort throughout the night. When used as part of a consistent bedtime routine, sleep sacks can also signal to the baby that it’s time to sleep, potentially easing the transition to bedtime.

Infant sleep cycles are markedly different from those of adults and understanding these differences is crucial for new parents. Unlike adults, whose sleep patterns are consistent and predictable, newborns do not have a set sleep schedule linked to the time of day for the first two months of life. Instead, their sleep is scattered throughout the day and night, often waking for feedings every few hours. This can lead to sleep deprivation for parents who are adjusting to their newborn’s irregular sleep patterns.

As infants grow, their sleep begins to consolidate around 2 months old, with many babies starting to sleep through the night between 4 and 6 months. The development of the sleep-wake cycle in humans follows a circadian rhythm, which are natural patterns repeating nearly every 24 hours. Over the first year of an infant’s life, sleep patterns will change, including the number of hours of sleep needed and the duration of sleep periods throughout the day and night.

Babies experience five stages in their sleep cycle: drowsiness, REM (active sleep), light sleep, and deep non-REM (quiet sleep). During sleep, the brain undergoes intense activity that is fundamental for learning, growth, and the development of behavior and emotions. It’s important for parents to understand these stages and the evolution of sleep cycles to better support their infant’s sleep needs.

By the time infants reach 3 months, they typically begin to sleep more at night, although the total amount of sleep can vary significantly among individuals. During the first weeks postpartum, infants may sleep as much as 16-17 hours every 24 hours. As new parents navigate these changing patterns, it’s essential to be patient and flexible while establishing a routine that accommodates the natural progression of infant sleep cycles.

Understanding the Risks and Safety of Side Sleeping for Newborns

The safety of sleeping positions for newborns is a critical topic for new parents, with back sleeping widely recommended by health organizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly advises that infants sleep on their backs on a flat, non-inclined surface without soft bedding to minimize the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related infant deaths. This recommendation is echoed by other reputable sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which highlight that approximately 3,400 sleep-related deaths occur among US babies each year, further underscoring the importance of safe sleep practices.

Side sleeping for newborns is generally not recommended due to its instability; a baby placed on their side may easily roll onto their stomach, increasing the risk of SIDS. Medical News Today and Healthline both emphasize the need to reposition a baby found sleeping on their side back onto their back. While some parents may inquire about the benefits of side sleeping, the consensus among health experts is clear: the safest position for a baby to sleep is on their back until they are old enough to roll over naturally. Once a baby can roll from back to stomach and vice versa, often around 4 to 6 months, the risk associated with side sleeping decreases, and parents do not need to reposition their baby during sleep.

Today’s Parent and Verywell Family suggest practical tips to prevent side sleeping in the first months of life, such as using a sleep sack instead of blankets and considering a pacifier, which has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. However, these preventative measures should always be coupled with vigilant adherence to back-sleeping recommendations for the safest sleep environment.

  • Consistent Routine: Engage in the same activities each night before bed to create a sleep-inducing ritual.
  • Acupressure: Stimulate specific pressure points to induce sleepiness. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a simple practice that combines breath control with acupressure principles.
  • Stretching or Light Yoga: Gentle physical exercises can relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation.
  • Warm Bath: A warm bath can help relax the body physically, making it easier to fall asleep.
  • Reading or Listening to Music: These activities can distract the mind from work-related stress and ease the transition to sleep.
  • Meditative Practices: Meditation or guided imagery can calm the mind and prepare it for sleep.

Implementing these techniques can help night shift workers overcome the challenges of an irregular sleep schedule and improve overall sleep quality.

Recent Articles

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best sleep position for a newborn?

The safest sleep position for a newborn is on their back. This position has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It's important for babies to sleep on a firm, flat surface without any soft bedding or toys.

How can parents establish good sleep hygiene for their newborn?

Good sleep hygiene for a newborn includes establishing a consistent bedtime routine, keeping the sleep environment quiet and dark, and ensuring the baby is put to sleep in a safe, comfortable place. It's also beneficial to differentiate between night and day to help regulate the baby's sleep cycle.

What is an ideal newborn sleep schedule?

An ideal newborn sleep schedule includes 14 to 17 hours of sleep per 24-hour period, spread out over several naps throughout the day and night. Newborns typically sleep in short bursts of 2-4 hours. Parents should aim for consistency but also be flexible to adapt to the baby's needs.

How important is it to maintain a sleep schedule for a newborn?

Maintaining a sleep schedule for a newborn is crucial for several reasons. It helps to establish a routine that supports the development of the baby's internal clock, contributes to better sleep quality, and provides predictability for both the baby and the parents. Consistency is key, even though flexibility is necessary to accommodate the baby's changing needs.

Scroll to Top