Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Your baby's sleep cycle

Naps, restless movements and waking up suddenly, crying; a lot of people see this happening to their baby without understanding what’s causing it. It can be partly explained by what sleep phase your baby is in.

As a parent it is good to know more about the sleep cycle. It helps you understand your baby’s sleep behaviour better and pay attention to what is disrupting his sleep.

Sleep cycle

The sleep cycle of a baby is very different than that of an adult. A baby sleeps in cycles of about 45 minutes, that keep recurring. With a grown-up such a cycle is about twice as long, about 90 minutes. During those 45 minutes, the baby goes through 3 types of sleep. The light sleep, the deep sleep and the dream sleep. These will follow each other up. Especially during the light sleep, your child will wake up very easily.

This is the transition between being awake and sleeping, followed by the start of the real sleep.

Your little one’s breathing will become even and he will fall into a deep sleep.

During this phase your baby will undergo the REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. In these cases your baby’s eyes are often moving rapidly, and the brain is active. Grown-ups spend about a quarter of their sleep time in this phase. With babies this is about 50% more. Especially during the REM sleep, all the impressions of the daytime are processed.

The division between deep and light sleep starts evenly. As your baby gets older, the deep sleep will be longer in relation to the light sleep. Your little one will sleep deeper and longer, because he spends less time in the light sleep phase while going through all the cycles. And so there is less chance of your child startling awake from a light sleep!

When you are sleeping at night, you go through the sleep cycle a couple of times. With most grown-ups, this is 4 or 5 times. Babies can’t always connect these different stages yet, causing them to sometimes be awake between cycles.

I walked around with her in my arms for hours, to cradle her to sleep. And still she kept startling awake.

Waking up

During the light sleep times, there is the most chance that your baby will wake up. Because the cycles follow each other up, the light sleep keeps coming back. As your child gets older, the cycle are longer and your child will go through the light sleep less often.

If your baby is cold, or if there’s commotion in the house, your baby will easily startle awake during the light sleep. But he won’t be properly rested yet! This usually takes at least two sleep periods, so about an hour and a half. Tucking him in warmly, whispering sweet words or putting your hands on his tummy can help your baby fall asleep again.

Make sure that your child is always sleeping peacefully and comfortably. If he wakes up because he’s cold or because of shock reactions, it’s easy to solve this. A sleeping bag will help your child stay sufficiently warm. When your child is bothered by unrest in his little body, use a Piep of Mini swaddling sleeping bag. His otherwise flailing arms will stay in the snug cocoon, and can no longer wake him up. If he gets enough sleep, he will be able to process all the impressions, and your baby will wake up rested and content.

Every time it got colder, he seemed to sleep less peacefully. We started using a sleeping bag, and noticed the difference right away!