Playing parent to a newborn can be a surefire formula for frenzied days and sleepless nights. So, it makes sense to arm yourself with information on your baby’s sleep patterns, to know exactly what to expect in the months to come.
As a new parent, the unpredictability of your baby’s sleep-wake patterns can be a lot to handle. If you’re constantly in a zombie-like state, governed by your little darling’s cues and cries, know that this phase is temporary and won’t last for long.
While your baby nested in your womb, he or she has adapted to your sleep-wake cycles, thanks to measured amounts of cortisol and melatonin transported through the umbilical cord.
However, the process of birth robbed your baby of this acquired circadian rhythm, leaving him or her unable to distinguish between day and night.
You’ve likely already realized by now that your newborn doesn’t stick to a sleep schedule. That’s because he or she was born without an internal body clock (the regulatory time control mechanism that tells you when it’s time to sleep and wake). This is known as the circadian rhythm, a day-night response to sunlight that sends signals to the body. When the eyes see sunlight, cortisol is released, and the body is prompted into a state of alertness. Likewise, at night, darkness triggers the secretion of melatonin, which pulls down the body temperature and induces slumber.
2. More REM Sleep
On an average, a night’s sleep could be composed of 16 independent sleep cycles, at the tail end of which, your baby may finally arouse from slumber. If your baby is a regular waker, speak to your pediatrician about the best ways to sleep-train your baby so that he or she can learn to ease back into restful sleep without your help.
Your baby may move through several cycles of sleep while laid down (much like us; that’s why you’ll never find yourself in the same position in the morning). For your baby, each sleep cycle is very short, lasting only about 45 minutes at birth, and an hour by the age of
Babies don’t sleep in nice, long stretches. Their sleep cycles, like ours, are broken down into two primary phases: non-Rapid Eye Movement (n REM) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM). The former refers to a state of deep, dreamless sleep, whereas the latter pertains to active sleep, with the brain at elevated levels of activity. REM sleep is also when dreams occur and your baby’s brain develops, consolidates and sharpens cognitive and physical skills.
3. Shorter Sleep Cycles
Always wondered why your baby wakes at the click of a switch? Or at the whisper of your voice? Or even your slightest footsteps as you slink back out of the room? Here’s why. Your baby’s sleep is evenly split between REM and n REM, and because REM is a lighter state of sleep, your baby can be woken far more easily whilst in it. Slight temperature changes, such as laying your baby down on a cold cot, or subtle sounds, like those from the air humidifier or air conditioner, can be your worst enemies, enough to jolt your baby awake.
It might help to minimize external stimuli and keep the surroundings in your baby’s sleep environment consistent. Remember, the flip side to encouraging more REM sleep is that your baby will experience more dreams, which might cause him or her to wake more frequently. Soothing your baby through these episodes will set the stage for more restful slumber in the long run.
4. Ding Dong, Body Clock
If you’re a new mommy surviving on little or no sleep, you only have a few more weeks before your baby develops his or her own circadian rhythm (hurrah!).The mechanism begins to develop by the age of 14 weeks, and continues to mature over the next few months. You can aid this process by exposing your baby to natural daylight and darkness. Open the curtains during the day and dim the lights at night. Keep your i Pads, televisions, mobiles – or any other screens – away from your baby to avoid the emission of short-wave blue light.
It’s wise to minimize any other light sources, such as a nightlight or ceiling projector. If you’re used to using blinds or shades for daytime naps, remember also to acquaint your baby with the sun, as underexposing you child to sunlight can hamper the development of the circadian rhythm. Reel up your blinds during the day to accustom your baby to sleeping in daylight.
As a freshly minted parent , it can be exhausting to have to wake every so often to comfort and cradle your baby. But be patient, and give your baby’s little body time to adjust to the ways of the world. Sunlight and sound, darkness and dreams are all new to him or her, and you’ll need to wait for your baby’s body clock to adjust to these confusing new phenomena. For now, take on the role of picker-upper, dream-soother and all-time comforter. And cherish these days. Because as your child grows older, you’ll have more sleep but fewer moments, and you’ll miss the mayhem for years to come.