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Typical Sleep Patterns Seen In A Young Infant

Tess Allen, HDFS 301

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Newborns sleep A LOT!

Babies spend the majority of their time sleeping, but the states of arousal they travel through while sleeping alternate quite a bit (Berk, 145).

Regular (NREM) sleep occurs for eight to nine hours a day.

This state is characterized by very little body motion & brain activity in addition to a slow heart rate and breathing rate (Berk, 146).

Irregular (REM) sleep also occurs for eight to nine hours a day.

This state is marked with occasional stirring and small body movements in addition to fast, irregular breathing, eye movements seen beneath their lids, and brain-wave activity similar to that of a baby's waking state (Berk, 146). Babies spend a significantly larger percentage of their sleep time in this state than adults do.

Why do babies spend so much time in irregular (REM) sleep?

Since an infant's central nervous system is developing at a rapid rate, this sleep phase provides them with the adequate amount of stimulation to supplement the few hours they spend awake (Berk, 146).

Drowsiness occurs at a variable rate.

This phase is seen when the infant is falling asleep or waking up. Their body movements are somewhere between the activity levels of regular and irregular sleep, and their eyes flutter between being open and closed (Berk, 146).

Quiet alertness can be observed for two to three hours.

Here, the infant is relatively inactive, but their eyes are open and attentive and they are breathing at an even rate (Berk, 146).

But brace yourselves, parents!

The pleasant, peaceful state of quiet alertness is also the most fleeting (Berk, 145) and quickly can transition into...

The state of waking activity & crying.

This phase occurs for anywhere between one to four hours a day. Here, the baby displays frequent bursts of disorganized body movements, irregular breathing, relaxed or tense facial expressions, and crying (Berk, 146).

So what exactly determines a baby's sleep schedule?

An infant's sleep-wake cycle relies more on their states of hunger or fullness, whereas an adult's sleep schedule is synced up to the dark-light stimuli of night and day (Berk, 145).

But have no worries, sleepy parents!

Towards the end of your infant's first year of life, the amount of irregular (REM) sleep they need declines which reduces some of their usual sleep disturbances and shifts them into the more adult-like pattern of sleeping fully through the night (Berk, 172).

To learn more about healthy sleeping patterns for your newborn, visit these links:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/baby-sleep/art-20045014

http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.nationwidechildrens.org/healthy-sleep-habits-for-infants-and-toddlers

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