So, why are babies such noisy sleepers? Baby sleep patterns can feel like a minefield for lots of parents, especially when sleep deprived. In healthy adults, sleep patterns are usually consistent and clear. Whereas a baby’s sleep cycle might seem very unpredictable. With multiple night waking and short naps.
Sleep plays a major role in development. Therefore, it is important for parents to understand and promote good sleep. Having some understanding of their evolving sleep patterns is essential to help parents understand if and when they may want to teach their child better sleep skills.
Health adults sleep at least seven hours each night, in a single block of time that is largely uninterrupted. This block of sleep lessens even more so in the elderly population. The other end of the scale is newborn sleep. Newborns require up to 18 hours of sleep, broken into multiple short periods, every 24-hours. By six months, babies sleep an average of about up to 14 hours each day, over larger blocks of time.
Newborn babies wake up throughout the night because they have not fully developed a strong circadian rhythm that makes children and adults tired at night instead of during the day. Most babies begin to mimic a more “adult” style sleep from three month old. During this time of life, babies begin to sleep for longer periods during the night and shorter periods during the day time.
There are two sleep stages in newborn babies and four sleep stages in babies over three months old. The newborn sleep stages are rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). Newborns spend 50% in REM sleep. Which is why they are such noisy sleepers.
The REM sleep stage is frequently called “active sleep” and NREM is called “quiet sleep.” During “active sleep,” or REM, a baby can be seen making small movements. The baby’s eyes move around (while closed), their limbs and fingers might twitch or jerk, their breathing might speed up, and they might move their mouths. During “quiet sleep,” or NREM, the baby is still and does not make these movements.
As baby learns so much every day, it's important that their brain has time to process it all. Brain development: Neural connections are incredibly important for your baby's development. Research indicates that the REM sleep stage is when neural connections go into overdrive, meaning that REM promotes development.
Understanding a baby’s sleep cycle is important for parents interested in sleep training. Because babies are not born with a strong circadian rhythm, sleep training is not possible for most newborns. Parents who want to sleep train have to work with their baby’s unique development timeline, and might not be able to sleep train as early as others.