How to Get Your Baby to “Sleep Like a Baby”

In this article:
  • How much sleep should your baby get?
  • Why are sleep cycles so important?
  • How to “set the mood” for great sleep.
  • The importance of journaling your baby’s sleep.
  • Great ideas for bedroom routines.

A newborn baby may not exactly sleep like a baby straight out of the womb. Based on their sleep patterns, you may even think that they’ve got day and night completely mixed up. Then when they actually fall asleep, they may also be very restless and wake up easily in a fuss or crying. The best way to get started on your journey to helping your baby sleep like a baby is by first understanding why they don’t.

Newborn Sleep Basics

Newborn babies normally sleep about 14-17 hours every 24 hours. They won’t usually be awake for more than an hour at a time, because they get very tired after being awake for over an hour. So they may nap for about 15 minutes or even up to 3 hours at a time.

Newborn Sleep Patterns

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A newborn baby’s sleep patterns may seem completely mixed up, since they sleep more during the day than at night. However, in reality, this sleep pattern was developed in the womb. During pregnancy, you were more than likely more active (or mobile) during the day than at night. So while you were going about your daily activities during the day, your movements would have lulled your baby to sleep. Similar to falling asleep in a rocking chair or a moving car. On the flip side, when you’d be less active at night, your baby would’ve been able to move around much more freely, especially while you were asleep. So newborns simply continue this sleep pattern until they’ve developed a circadian rhythm of their own, to help them differentiate day from night.

Newborn Sleep Cycles

Now that you have a basic understanding of a newborn baby’s sleep patterns, let’s jump into understanding newborn sleep cycles. Newborns usually have two modes of sleep that they drift in and out of: active sleep and quiet sleep.

Active sleep is the same as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Half of the time your newborn is asleep, they’re in this mode. Active sleep is very light, so babies can become restless, wake up feeling unsettled, or may be easily stirred out of sleep. As your baby grows, their sleeping patterns will mature and they’ll eventually have fewer REM cycles and more stretches of deeper and less active sleep.

Quiet sleep is deep sleep. Your baby will be very still and calm and their breathing will be deep and stable. They’re less likely to be stirred easily out of quiet sleep.

Newborns transition through multiple sleep cycles within each stretch of sleep. Each sleep cycle has both active sleep and quiet sleep, which may take about 40 minutes. Most times, newborns will wake up a bit after each cycle. When they wake up between cycles, they may get a little unsettled and need help to settle back into the next sleep cycle.

Tips On How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Like A Baby

Keep things bright during the day and darker at night

Although the temptation is there to close the curtains while your baby is sleeping during the day, it’s actually best to leave them open. Your baby needs to get used to having sunlight streaming in during the daytime, and hearing other daytime activities, such as birds chirping, cars driving by, or their siblings playing softly close by. The presence of these natural daytime sounds – once not too loud – will help develop your baby’s natural circadian rhythm as they grow.

At night, you’ll need to do the opposite. You’ll need to create an environment that nurtures sleep by having:

  • Very low or no lighting
  • Calming music or white noise
  • Soothing scents
  • Comfortable temperature
  • Minimal night noises

Journal Newborn Sleep Progress

By journaling your baby’s sleep times and duration, you’ll have a great track record of how much sleep your baby is having each day. This is also a great resource to help you see how your baby’s sleep patterns are improving, help you ensure your baby is getting enough sleep and you’ll also be able to easily see when your baby’s sleep patterns change. This journal will also prove very helpful when you need to visit the pediatrician for a check-up or if your baby’s sick.

Plan a simple bedtime routine and stick to it

Your newborn bedtime routine should not be a source of stress, so keep it simple, short, and sweet. You know yourself and your newborn best so create a routine that makes you both feel at ease and ready for rest. You can include a warm bath and a massage after their last feeding. Or it can be as simple as just singing your baby to bed or reading a short bedtime story with some cuddles or talking about the wonders of the world and saying your prayers. The key is to keep it as consistent as possible.

The ultimate goal of your baby’s bedtime routine should be to get your baby to fall asleep. It will also help train your baby’s internal clock to know when it’s bedtime and it usually also helps you to relax. Some bedtime routines work better than others, so it may be a bit of trial and error before you find one that works best for you and your baby.

Here are a few examples you can use to help develop a bedtime routine that best works for you and your baby:

Noise Reducer
Noise reducers like white noise machines or white noise melodies are great ways to create a calming, comfortable, womb-like environment for your baby, in terms of sound. It may also help your baby to fall asleep faster. One study of newborns found that 80% of those exposed to white noise fell asleep within five minutes, while only 25% of newborns without the background noise fell asleep as quickly. Some other great benefits of noise reducers are that they may help your baby sleep longer, help drown out outside noises and help your baby re-enter deep sleep more naturally.

Bedtime Stories
Bedtime stories are faithful favorites to include in your baby’s bedtime routine that will never grow old. For babies, the sound of our soothing voices as we read to them usually eases them easily into sleep. As they grow, these stories help stir their imagination, increase their vocabulary and improve their ability to express themselves.

Bath and Body Massage
A warm soothing bath with subtle calming scents is definitely a good idea to help easily drift your baby into sleep. Top it off with a hand or body massage right after, and they should be in deep sleep in no time. Studies have shown that massaging your baby before bedtime, may increase the production of the sleep-enhancing hormone melatonin.

Now that you have all these tips on how to get your baby to sleep like a baby and you understand a newborn baby’s sleep patterns and sleep cycles, you should have fewer sleepless nights ahead of you!