Circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle, are regulated by light and dark and these rhythms take time to
develop, resulting in the irregular sleep schedules of newborns. The rhythms begin to develop at about six
weeks, and by three to six months most infants have a regular sleep-wake cycle.By the age of two, most children
have spent more time asleep than awake and overall, a child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood
asleep. Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development.
There are two alternating types or states of sleep:
Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) or "quiet" sleep. During the deep states of NREM sleep, blood supply to the
muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and important hormones are released
for growth and development.
Rapid Eye Movement(REM) or "active" sleep. During REM sleep, our brains are active and dreaming occurs. Our
bodies become immobile, breathing and heart rates are irregular.
Babies spend 50 percent of their time in each of these states and the sleep cycle is about 50 minutes. At about
six months of age, REM sleep comprises about 30 percent of sleep. By the time children reach preschool age, the
sleep cycle is about every 90 minutes.
Sleep and Newborns (0-3 months)
For newborns, sleep during the early months occurs around the clock and the sleep-wake cycle interacts with the
need to be fed, changed and nurtured. Newborns sleep a total of 10.5 to 18 hours a day on an irregular schedule
with periods of one to three hours spent awake. The sleep period may last a few minutes to several hours. During
sleep, they are often active, twitching their arms and legs, smiling, sucking and generally appearing restless.
Sleep Tips for Newborns
Observe baby's sleep patterns and identify signs of sleepiness.
Put baby in the crib when drowsy, not asleep.
Place baby to sleep on his/her back with face and head clear of blankets and other soft items.
Encourage nighttime sleep.
Sleep and Infants (4-11 months)
By six months of age, nighttime feedings are usually not necessary and many infants sleep through the night;
70-80 percent will do so by nine months of age. Infants typically sleep 9-12 hours during the night and take 30
minute to two-hour naps, one to four times a day – fewer as they reach age one.