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How To Train My Infant to Sleep

Written by Dr. Sintayehu Abebe on Wed, 06 December 2023

Key Highlights

  • Recognize the changing sleep patterns of infants from birth to 6 months, adapting to their evolving needs.
  • Learn about the sleep stages from REM to NREM, and how they develop from birth to six months.
  • Implement environmental cues like bright light during the day and darkness at night to regulate your baby’s sleep-wake cycle.
  • Be prepared for changes in sleep cycles and seek medical advice if there are signs of distress.
  • Follow safe sleeping practices to prevent risks like SIDS, including room-sharing without bed-sharing. 
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Sleep Cycle From Birth To 6 Months

Babies do not have a regular sleep cycle until about 6 months of age. The sleep cycle differs from one baby to another. However, most babies tend to show the following patterns in their sleep:

Sleep Cycle From Birth To 6 Months

1. Birth to 3 months

  • A newborn spends most of his or her time sleeping.
  • Babies sleep in short stretches as they need to be changed and fed regularly.
  • Initially, they need to be woken up every three to four hours for feeding.
  • Gradually, the duration of their sleep increases.
  • In the first three months, babies sleep for a total of 8- 18 hours a day.
  • As time progresses, they tend to sleep less, having shorter daytime naps and longer nighttime sleep.
  • They sleep lightly in these three months, with 50% of their sleeping time in an active sleep state.

2. 4 to 6 months

  • Most babies tend to sleep for 14-15 hours in total in a day.
  • They may nap 3 times per day, for 2 hours each.
  • The duration of nighttime sleep tends to increase and may go up to 8 hours.
  • By 6 months of age, they may go up to 5-6 hours without being fed and may begin to sleep throughout the night.
  • The amount of active sleep reduces in this phase.
  • The beginning of the sleep cycle may then comprise a quiet sleep.

Stages Of Sleep

1. Birth to 3 months

There are two stages of sleep in newborn babies up to 3 months of age:

  • The rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep is an active state of sleep where a baby can be seen making small movements such as movement of the eyeballs, twitching of fingers or limbs, and small movements of the mouth.
  • The non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stage of sleep is a quieter state of sleep where the baby does not make any movements.

2. 4 to 6 months

By the beginning of the 4th month, a baby shows 4 stages in his sleep cycle, which is similar to that in adults:

  • Stage 1 (NREM 1) - Drowsiness, the baby may open and close his or her eyes and slowly falls asleep
  • Stage 2 (NREM 2) - Light sleep, the baby may startle or move upon sounds
  • Stage 3 (NREM 3) - Deep sleep, the baby does not move, and is difficult to be wakened up
  • Stage 4 (REM) - Light sleep, the baby may experience dreams and may move his or her eyes back and forth.

What If Your Baby Isn’t A “Good Sleeper”?

What If Your Baby Isn’t A Good Sleeper

To improve your baby's nighttime sleep, ensure they receive appropriate environmental cues. Provide bright light exposure during the day, promote darkness before bedtime, and create a calm, uneventful atmosphere at night. These measures will assist your baby in becoming sleepy at the appropriate time and increasing their nighttime sleep duration.

  • Keep in mind that employing comforting, nurturing, and emotionally connected communication is crucial for calming babies.
  • If your baby appears to be alert and not ready for sleep at bedtime, avoid attempting to impose sleep forcefully.
  • If your baby displays signs of inconsolable crying or other forms of distress, it is advisable to consult with your doctor.
  • Be cautious of allowing your baby to take late naps.

Some Facts About A Baby’s Sleep Cycle

  • Newborns are habituated to darkness in their mother’s womb and hence after birth, may not distinguish day and night. It is advised to keep the curtains open for some time during the day and dim the lights at night, to help the baby understand the difference.
  • Most babies tend to change their sleep cycle. The new parents can try various methods to put them to sleep such as swaddling, playing white noise, singing, etc.
  • Some babies may have noisy sleep. They may breathe heavily or cry in their sleep which is quite normal.
  • Babies show differences in their alertness at the times they are awake. They experience a ‘quiet alert phase’ at the time of waking up, when they are still, but awake and trying to blend into their environment. They may stare at objects and respond to sounds and motions. This phase is usually followed by an ‘active crying phase’ where babies cry and move irregularly.
  • Babies need to be given a safe sleeping environment, bearing in mind that infants up to 6 months of age are at a higher risk of SIDS- sudden infant death syndrome. It is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby put to sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests room-sharing without bed-sharing in which the baby can be put to sleep in a bassinet or crib in the same room as that of parents, but not on the same bed to prevent him or her from getting suffocated.

Conclusion

A baby is strongly influenced by his or her environment. Maintaining a predictable routine and establishing a proper sleep cycle are essential in ensuring that the newborn gets proper sleep.

A baby with quality sleep will grow into a physically and mentally healthy child and will also ease your journey as a new mother. This is because the health of the newborn baby has an impact on the mental health of the new mother as well. You become more calm and fit to carry out other duties as a mother once you know your newborn is thriving.

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Dr. Sintayehu Abebe

Dr Sintayehu Abebe is a Consultant Internist and Interventional Cardiologist at the Addis Ababa University. The young and energetic Dr Abebe who is always keen on learning new things is also President of the Ethiopian Society of Cardiac Professionals (ESCP).

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Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

Dec, 06 2023

Written By

Dr. Sintayehu Abebe

Nov, 27 2023

Written By

Dr. Sintayehu Abebe