Sleep is very important for a baby’s development. Not only does it help your body rest and replenish energy, it is also involved in other metabolic processes such as child growth, body weight regulation, and cognitive development. Therefore, it is normal that one of the most recurrent concerns among mothers and fathers, especially if they are first-timers, is related to their children’s sleep and quality of rest.
Sleep in newborns and infants
During the first weeks of life, newborns sleep most of day and night. They usually only wake up if they are hungry, so they usually sleep an average of between 16 and 20 hours a day. However, as they grow their body needs less and less time to recover energy and the hours of sleep are reduced naturally.
For the first year, the baby’s sleep schedule is reduced to between 12 and 14 hours a day. At this stage Babies are likely to already nap for an hour or two, while being able to stay awake for more hours a day. In many cases, they sleep much of the night at one stretch, but in others they continue to wake up several times.
Obviously, how long each baby sleeps varies from case to case since their circadian rhythm is different, as well as their needs for rest and sleep, which roughly explains why some babies sleep less than others. However, there are also other factors that can influence a baby to sleep less than normal and that can affect the quality of their rest.
Why does a baby sleep less than normal?
There are many reasons why a baby sleeps fewer hours than normal for his stage of development. Bad sleep habits are usually the main cause of not falling asleep or not sleeping well in most cases, but it is not the only one.
- Frequent intakes during the day. For many mothers, on-demand feeding consists of feeding the baby every time he cries, so that they nurse many times throughout the day. The problem? The baby’s body adapts to being fed continuously and being close to its mother on a regular basis, so when night falls it is difficult for them to sleep straight and they often wake up several times to ask for food and be in their mother’s arms.
- Very long daytime naps. Most babies sleep for many hours throughout the day, but as they get older, naps get shorter and shorter while the night sleep lengthens. However, if the baby takes too long naps during the day, it is normal that at night she is hardly sleepy. In these cases, it is common for the baby to have trouble falling asleep or to wake up several times throughout the night.
- Uncomfortable sleeping position. There are babies who fall asleep I practically dream of putting my head on the pillow, but others find it much more difficult and must find their favorite position to rest well. In these cases, it is common that if the baby is in an uncomfortable position, he cannot fall asleep and/or wakes up several times at night because he cannot sleep well.
- Being a baby high demand. High demand babies are characterized by being very active children who need continuous stimulation and, consequently, sleep little throughout the day. In general, they take very short naps, from 15 to 30 minutes, and at night they require few hours of sleep to replenish their energies, so they may take time to fall asleep or wake up several times in search of attention. Basically, they only sleep when they are very exhausted.
- Ongoing illness. Another of the most common causes for a baby to sleep less than normal is that he is sick. Whether it is a chronic, transitory or even incubating illness, symptoms of generalized discomfort or occasional discomfort can keep a baby from sleeping, making it difficult for him to fall asleep, waking up several times throughout the night or not getting enough rest. In this case, a sudden change in the child’s usual sleep pattern is usually noticed and, once the illness is overcome, they tend to recover it.
- Emotional disturbances. Anxiety, irritation or fear are some of the most common emotional states that influence the conciliation of children’s sleep. In fact, if the baby is restless, it will be difficult for him to fall asleep and, if he does, it is likely that she will wake up several times at night or that she will not have a restful sleep. This problem is very easy to distinguish because it is common for the baby to become restless, have a tantrum or a crying fit as bedtime approaches.
- Sleep disorders. Sleep disorders are not exclusive to adults, sometimes babies also experience difficulties falling asleep. Nightmares and night terrors are usually the most common disorders in preschool children, but they can also develop other more complex disorders such as somniphobia, which is nothing more than an irrational fear of going to bed, or even insomnia.
What to do so that your baby sleep and rest better?
1. Keep baby active during the day
Whether it’s a high-demand baby or a little one who likes to nap many hours during the day, keeping him active during the day will help him be more tired at night, to fall asleep earlier and rest better. Ideally, you should gradually shorten his naps, taking into account his age and rest needs, although it is also important that you keep him entertained in constant activities to prevent him from falling asleep before his time.
2. Establish a sleep schedule
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule helps the baby prepare for bedtime more easily. What happens is that when the body adapts to that time as bedtime approaches, automatic signals begin to appear, such as a feeling of heaviness in the eyelids or yawning that prepare you to fall asleep faster and rest better.
3. Create a routine that facilitates sleep
Getting your baby ready for bed with a series of daily routines will help him fall asleep earlier and rest much better. For example, a routine could be feeding him, cradling him in her arms, putting him to bed in her bed, and singing a song to him with the lights off. In this sense, it is important that it be a relaxing routine for the baby to help calm tensions and prepare for sleep.
4. Pay attention to the environment of the room
No matter how small the baby is, the conditions of her environment also affect her sleep for better or worse. For example, if there is too much light or noise in the room, it will be difficult for her to fall asleep and rest well. For this reason, it is important that at bedtime the child’s room is quiet, dark and at the right temperature. If you prefer, you can include an accessory with relaxing children’s music in the background to help him relax and fall asleep.
5. Always feed her before going to bed
When the baby is hungry, it will be difficult for her to fall asleep and rest well, in fact, she will most likely wake up in the middle of the night to ask for food . For this reason, a simple way to get him to sleep for more hours at a stretch and to rest well is to feed him before going to bed. Ideally, feed him between half an hour and an hour before going to sleep so that he don’t associate eating with sleep.