Understanding newborn sleep patterns will help you understand what is normal, relieving you of some new-parent stress revolving around sleep.
Everyone's sleep cycle is divided into two parts. The first we know as REM sleep. This is where you dream and are easily woken up. The next stage of sleep is deep and if you were a cartoon you might have to be forcefully slapped to break you out of it.
Your REM sleep takes up only 20% of your 90-100 minute complete sleep cycle. After this cycle you might wake up refreshed after a Sunday afternoon nap or enter a new sleep cycle if it's 2a.m.
Newborn's sleep cycle is different to that of an adult. Their REM stage of sleep takes up half of their 40-50 minute complete sleep cycle. Here's what you need to know about newborn sleep:
The REM stage is what we will call "active sleeping". There is a lot of movement in this stage. Muscles are twitching. Eyelids are fluttering. They might grizzle or cry or even be woken up. Don't despair. It's all part of the normal process.
Active Sleeping will take 25-30 minutes for a newborn. If you are rocking or holding your newborn, settling them through this Active Sleep stage, expect a 1/2 hour time commitment to this activity.
As they transition out of this stage, you'll notice the following:
• slower, more rhythmic breathing
• no movement
• relaxed muscles
• no fluttering eyelids
At this stage they have reached "Quiet Sleep". The next door neighbour's dog can bark right outside your baby's window and they won't even stir. If you are holding your baby, put them down on the mattress of their cot at this point.
This stage of Quiet Sleep will last approximately 20-25 minutes completing their sleep cycle. Like you they will either wake up or enter a new cycle. You might need to assist them through transitioning to a new cycle. Don't confuse their fluttering eyelids or their little grizzling sounds as signs of ready to wake up. They are working through the Active Sleep stage. Ideally, newborns need approximately a solid 90 minutes or more for each sleep.
When should you help them through to the next sleep cycle?
If they are not due for another feed for 40 minutes or so, help them sleep longer.
Just know the difference between a hungry cry and a jerky grizzle and fluttery eye lids meaning they are transitioning through "Active Sleep". If they are younger than 3 weeks and your breastfeeding or bottle feeding has not been firmly established yet, you might offer a feed. If you are concerned at all with their feeding and weight gain, contact your local lactation consultant or pediatrician to help you in this area. You should always feed a hungry baby.
This is all normal. And quite a time commitment helping their little bodies and minds get the rest they need.
If you need a bit of extra help with understanding your newborn's sleep, get in touch with Cradle 2 Kindy Parenting Solutions. We can either come to your home, consult via SKYPE or Facetime or even email to give you a bit of a confidence boost.