Congratulations on your brand new bundle of joy! You’re going through the euphoria of having a whole new tiny human to yourself and you want to spend as much time with them as possible, but they are always sleeping!
Relax, it’s completely normal for your little on to sleep from around 11 to 17 hours a day. They’ve just entered the world, and believe it or not, need more rest than you do. In fact, babies spend more than half their time sleeping in the first few years of their life. Sleeping helps them develop in areas like physical growth, neurosensory and brain development. It also helps them learn better and have a better temperament, which means they’ll be in a much better mood when they are awake.
Read on to find out just how your little one’s long hours of sleeping is good for them, and why you should definitely not try to control it
1. Boosts Physical Growth
Sleep plays an important role in the physical growth of babies, so your little one will get nice and strong. This is because, as they sleep, they get produce bursts of growth hormones during the stage of sleep known as slow-wave sleep. Research even indicated that during the long periods of time in which babies slept soundly, it ended up impacting an increased spurt in length and weight!
2. Helps With Neurosensory Development
In simple terms, sleeping helps your baby’s brain develop. This is certainly a good thing as the majority of a human’s central nervous system develops in the first 2 years of his/her life. A major part of this development, known as endogenous stimulation, occurs during the REM part of a baby’s sleep cycle. This type if stimulation is not known to be associated with the external environment.
This stimulation is necessary for the neurosurgery development of the child – including areas on visual, auditory, touch, and vestibular systems. These connect the baby’s sensory organs with his/her brain.
It is also important to not disturb your baby’s natural sleep because it can hinder such development. Studies conducted on animals have shown that interfering with REM sleep can cause abnormalities in development.
3. Aids Brain Development
Brain development, which is responsible for your baby’s ability to understand and respond to stimulus, occurs during sleep. Researchers may even have found a link between irregular sleeping patterns and babies with physical or neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Brain plasticity is the ability of the brain to respond to the outside environment by changing its structure and function. Animal studies have found that infants who were deprived of sleep experienced a loss in brain plasticity. This could result in disabilities in learning and behavior.
4. Helps Them Learn Better
Sleep is an important aid in the learning process of babies. This was further proved by a study conducted on 15-month old babies. Researchers used an artificial language to teach babies word pairings. Some of the babies were then given a nap while others weren’t. They found that the babies that napped were not only able to remember the word pairings but also learn abstract relations between those words (like rules of grammar, etc.). The babies that did not nap, however, were only able to remember the word pairings.
In another study, a sequence of familiar sounds was played as the babies slept. These were then interspersed with a strange sound that would be new to them. They found that the sleeping babies registered surprise when then these new sounds appeared, indicating that they were taking in outside stimulus and learning even while they sleep.
5. Impacts Temperament
It’s no surprise that a better night’s sleep translates to a better mood the next day, and we’re not just talking about babies! But when your brain is in its major stages of development, perhaps its a bit more important to have a sound, uninterrupted, and comfortable sleep.
Studies on sleeping patterns found that young children who did not sleep enough were more prone to tantrums and were just all around “difficult”. Another study even found that infants that slept less at 3 weeks had worse temperaments when they turned 3 months old!
So, How Long Do Babies Need to Sleep?
Depending on the age of your baby, he or she may need 11-17 hours of sleep a day. It also depends on the individual child. Generally, a newborn will need the most amount of sleep. Their sleeping hours reduce as they grow. Here’s a general guideline on how much sleep your little one should be getting based on their age:
- Babies between 0 to 3 months need 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day.
- Babies between 4 to 11 months need 12 to 16 hours of sleep a day.
- Toddlers between 12 to 35 months need 11 to 14 hours of sleep a day.
This is an accumulation of naps and sleeping at night. For a newborn, it might not make a difference between night and day. They may sleep for about 1-3 hours, wake up, and go right back to sleep in less than an hour. As they get older, they tend to sleep less during the day and more during the night. By the time they are 6 months old, they should be sleeping regularly at night with a few naps during the day.
This fragmented sleep pattern can be difficult for new parents, but hang in there – a full (or uninterrupted, at the least) night’s sleep is only a while away!
When To See A Doctor
Sleep is obviously an important part of your baby’s life, but if they are sleeping even beyond the ranges mentioned above, a consultation with the pediatrician will not hurt. While it could be normal, it could also indicate certain health issues like infection or jaundice. This is especially concerning if your baby isn’t gaining weight.
As they near the one year mark, irregular sleeping could be the cause of teething process which could be giving them quite a bit of discomfort. So, if your baby isn’t sleeping properly at night or is unusually sleepy during the day, especially if they seem lethargic, cranky, or have a fever, get them to a doctor to rule out any complications.