Babies and toddlers sleep a lot - because sleep is extremely important for early childhood development and health. Here you can find out what makes baby sleep so special and how you can help newborns find a stable sleep rhythm as quickly as possible.
Table of Contents
- Baby sleep – the special features
- How long do babies sleep?
- The right sleeping environment for babies
- 5 tips for falling asleep for a peaceful baby's sleep
- Not recommended.
1. Baby sleep – the special features
Good sleep is irreplaceable, especially for babies, because during sleep the immune system is strengthened, the brain processes the impressions of the day and important hormones for growth and child development are released.
How much a baby sleeps varies greatly from child to child. In principle, the sleep of babies differs in many ways from the sleep of older children and adolescents. Not only is the total sleep time significantly longer at 16-18 hours, the distribution of sleep stages is also different. A baby spends around half of its sleep in so-called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, i.e. almost four times as much as in adolescence and adulthood. This is due to the fact that REM sleep is a fundamental part of the development of the child's brain and the brain develops very dynamically, especially in the first few months of life.
In addition to the longer total sleep time, sleep in babies is also significantly more fragmented. This means that babies sleep in multiple periods spread throughout the day and night. The frequent periods of wakefulness are completely normal in the first few months of life and should not be a cause for concern for the parents involved.
2. How long do babies sleep?
While newborns sleep a lot in the first months of life, the sleep requirement and the composition of the sleep phases change with increasing age and level of maturity. Below we will show you the special features in the individual months of life.
0 – 3 months
In the first three months of life, babies' total sleep time is 16 - 18 hours per day. Sleep is fragmented and the baby sleeps spread out throughout the day and night with regular awakenings. During this time, the baby's sleep rhythm is just developing. The high REM portion of sleep indicates the dynamic development of the brain in this early phase of life.
3 – 6 months
The babies develop a more stable day-night rhythm. There is an increase in nighttime sleep and a decrease in daytime sleep. Most children at this age fall asleep at about the same time in the evening and wake up at about the same time at night and in the morning. Until about the 6th. Months of life lead to longer, continuous sleep durations. Some babies still need one or more meals at night.
6 – 9 months
The sleep rhythm becomes increasingly stable and the sleep cycles become longer. Some babies actually sleep “through the night” at this age – for a full six to eight hours. However, this still means that parents have to be prepared for their child waking up at night. The proportion of REM sleep has already decreased significantly at this age and is still approx. a third of total sleep time.
The total sleep time after one year of life is now approx. 14 hours. The individual sleep phases and waking phases become longer and longer and the majority of sleep takes place at night; supplemented by 2-3 small naps a day.
1 – 2 years
The need for sleep decreases further and after the 2nd Year of age approx. 12 – 13 hours. Toddlers get most of their sleep during the night. The afternoon nap becomes more pronounced and there are more sleeping periods per day instead of two. By 18 months, almost everyone only sleeps once a day and by 24 months, some can even forego a nap altogether. Here too, there are strong differences from child to child.
It should be borne in mind at every age phase that every baby and toddler is individual and that even within a family, children's sleeping behavior can develop differently. This is no reason to worry and everything usually levels off again after a while.
3. The right sleeping environment for babies
The right sleeping environment is important for babies to sleep safely and healthily and there are a few things to consider when choosing sleep positioning and bed environment.
Supine position – The recommended sleeping position
It is advisable to place a baby on its back to sleep in the first few months of life. The side position is not recommended because the baby could turn onto its stomach while sleeping. Positioning in the prone position is generally strongly discouraged in the first 1 to 3 months of life. In the sleep laboratory it was shown that babies react worse to disturbances when lying on their stomachs than when lying on their backs. The risk of sudden infant death syndrome is also greatest during this phase of life. The baby should only sleep on its stomach when it is strong enough to roll onto its back under its own power and can also lift and hold its head independently.
The bed environment for babies
A baby bed should be furnished in a rather spartan manner. It should be ensured that the head cannot be covered by a blanket or pillow. Here are a few pointers.
- Use sleeping bags instead of duvets
- If a blanket is used, it should be tucked under the mattress at the foot of the bed and secured so that the child is only covered up to the chest
- The mattress in the baby bed should not be too soft
- Babies and small children under 3 years of age do not need a pillow
- The bed environment should be safe and there should be no cords or ties within the child's reach
Temperature & Air Quality
- The room temperature should be around 16 to 18 degrees Celsius when sleeping, even for babies and small children
- A bodysuit/undershirt and pajamas are usually sufficient clothing. If it is too hot, you can even leave out some of it
- Caps and headgear should be avoided in bed.
- The baby bed should not be placed directly next to the heater or in the blazing sun. Hot water bottles, heating pads, “nests”, furs and thick duvets should also be avoided in the baby bed
- The bedroom should be well ventilated and it is important to ensure that there is no smoking in the bedroom
4. 5 tips for falling asleep for a peaceful baby's sleep
#1 A fixed daily routine
As with us adults, it also applies to babies and small children that a fixed daily routine and a day/evening routine has a positive effect on sleep. That's why you should make sure to always put your child to bed at the same time so that he or she can get used to regular sleep at fixed times.
#2 Get some rest early
One hour before going to bed you shouldn't play and run around too much. Loud noises and a lot of activity can disrupt the baby's preparation for sleep. A short trip in the stroller or car can help promote sleep.
#3 Introduce rituals
Habits are very important, especially for babies and toddlers. This way they learn what to expect in the evening and can prepare for it. Which sleep ritual is best for the little ones depends on the individual child. However, there are some popular rituals that have proven to be very effective:
- Bathing: A bath can have a very calming effect on many children. The warm water also has a positive influence on body temperature and can promote sleep. Gently drying off and applying cream can also have a relaxing effect on the child and prepare them for a peaceful sleep.
- Put on pajamas: Cozy pajamas can give the child the signal that sleep is approaching and get them in the mood for falling asleep.
- Dark the room: Darkening the room is a very effective ritual for preparing babies and toddlers for sleep. A dark and quiet sleeping environment also promotes sleep.
- Lullaby: Repetitive and familiar melodies can have a calming effect and encourage falling asleep. Even the melody of a music box can sometimes work wonders.
#4 Don't play at night
If a baby wakes up at night, the nocturnal waking period should not be used as play time. There is a risk that the baby will get used to the activity at night. Softly speaking and calming gestures show the child that it is actually bedtime.
Babies know many monotonous sounds from the womb. Soothing sounds can help you fall asleep. Babies like to fall asleep to the sound of the sea, the hum of an airplane or so-called white-noise sounds.
There is definitely something for you and your little ones in our SLEEP-SOUNDS.
5. Not recommendable.
In addition to the many classic sleep rituals, there are also things that you should avoid early on. Babies are often carried around, driven around in strollers or placed on the chest until they fall asleep and then put in their bed already asleep placed. However, if you get the baby used to it, he or she will soon ask for these sleep aids again and again. Getting used to it later is possible, but it can be very stressful for parents and children.
It is also recommended that do not delay falling asleep. When babies are overtired or overstimulated, it is more difficult for them to fall asleep. It is therefore advisable to pay particular attention to signs of tiredness in babies. A common sign of sleep deprivation is crying. Babies and toddlers who cry frequently and for long periods of time (so-called “cry babies”) often also have a lack of sleep. You don't get enough sleep during the day, which means you're overtired and overstimulated and then find it difficult to rest.
Sufficient sleep is essential for the development and well-being of babies.
Within the first 24 months of life, babies' sleep patterns and sleep needs change. This is completely normal and should not worry parents.
The right sleeping environment promotes falling asleep and staying asleep.
Routines and calming rituals can help you fall asleep.
Greetings and see you soon!