How Long Are Baby Sleep Cycles at Night?

Reviewed on 6/8/2021

Baby sleeping
Babies also need to have a safe place to sleep. Each baby has a unique sleep profile and gradually, parents get to know their baby’s sleep patterns.

Babies have short sleep cycles. They need to feed often, so they wake often. 

Remember to respond to the baby, especially when they are crying. As they grow, their sleep cycles get longer. 

Babies also need to have a safe place to sleep. Each baby has a unique sleep profile and gradually, parents get to know their baby’s sleep patterns.

Newborn babies:

  • Newborns will sleep on and off throughout the day and night.
  • They have an active and quiet sleep.
  • Newborns will move through active and quiet sleep cycles that typically last about 30 to 50 minutes.
  • Newborns sleep a lot in the early weeks after birth. The average newborn needs about 16 to 17 hours of sleep.

Babies three to six months old:

  • By three months, the baby will start to develop daytime and nighttime sleeping patterns.
  • They will usually sleep more at night and still have two to three naps during the day that may last up to two hours.
  • By four to six weeks of age, newborns need 14 to 16 hours of sleep each day.

Babies six to 12 months old:

  • At six months, most babies are sleeping through the night.
  • These babies should still have one to two naps during the day that may last between one to two hours.
  • By eight weeks of age, some (although not all) babies will start to sleep for shorter periods during the day and slightly longer periods at night (although babies will still wake multiple times each night for feedings).

Toddlers:

  • Toddlers need about 12 to 13 hours of sleep every day, including naps and nighttime.
  • They should have one to two hours of naps during the day.

Preschoolers:

  • Preschool children need about 11 to 13 hours of sleep.
  • Some preschoolers will still have a nap every day that may last between one to two hours.

Children 5 to 11 years old:

  • Children between the ages of five to eight years old need about 10 to 11 hours of sleep every night, whereas 9 to 11 years old children need 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night.
  • Usually, after the age of five, a child will no longer need a daytime nap.

Teenagers:

  • Children who are entering puberty typically need about eight to 10 hours of sleep per night.
  • At this age, the child may want to go to bed later and wake up later.
  • It’s important to ensure they are getting the full amount of sleep their body needs.

Why are newborn babies’ sleep patterns unpredictable?

Unpredictable sleep patterns are also due to nutritional needs. It is normal for babies to have irregular sleep patterns from birth to three months of age.

  • Newborns haven't yet developed their circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). A circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour clock that cycles at regular times between sleepiness and alertness.
  • A baby may need to eat every two to three hours in the first month and every three to four hours in the second month.
  • As they get older, they won't need to be fed at night as often.
  • Fortunately, these unpredictable patterns don't last long though it may seem like an eternity when parents are sleep deprived. Some babies consistently sleep for longer stretches by three or four months of age. Others don't until they are older.

Understanding the sleep cycles of infants can help parents cope with the first few months with the new baby. It’s important to realize that their sleeping patterns are quite different from adults'. 

A newborn needs a lot more sleep than adults, and babies tend to sleep for the same amount of time during the day and night. As they grow, this changes. Babies stay awake for longer periods and their day sleep becomes quite different from their nighttime sleep.

QUESTION

Newborn babies don't sleep very much. See Answer

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References
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Newborn-Sleep Patterns. https://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/newborn-sleep-patterns

Community Paediatric Review. Sleep. 2011; 19(2). https://www.rch.org.au/uploadedFiles/Main/Content/ccch/CPR_Vol_19_No_2_Sleep_final_web.pdf

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