By Raising Children Network
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Newborn being wrapped for nap
Your newborn is programmed to sleep differently from you. Here’s what you need to know about how and when newborn babies sleep.

When newborns sleep

Newborns will usually sleep for around 16 hours in every 24.

A newborn doesn’t know that people sleep at night. Your newborn sleeps in short bursts through the day and night, in blocks of up to four hours.

When newborns are awake, they’re usually feeding. Playtime at this age is very short. After feeding, your baby will probably want to go back to sleep.

Newborn sleep cycles

Every time newborns sleep, they go through a cycle of deep sleep and light sleep. Then they wake up for a little while. During this time, your baby might grizzle, groan or cry. Baby might also fidget and squirm going from deep to light sleep, and back again. A newborn sleep cycle takes about 40 minutes. If your baby wakes after 40 minutes, you might need to help him settle for the next sleep cycle.

Premature babies have trouble getting into deep sleep, and sleep lightly for around 80% of their sleep time. Full-term newborns sleep deeply half the time.

Read our article on sleep for more information on normal sleep patterns. And our article on the patting settling technique has ideas for helping your baby learn to settle.

Night sleeping and waking

In the first few months, it’s common for newborns to wake 2-3 times a night for feeds. Between one and three months, the number of wakings decreases and a baby’s longest period of sleep increases.

By the time your baby is around three months old, your baby might have begun to settle into a sleep pattern of around 4-5 hours at night. But up until six months of age, many babies still need help and attention at night.

  • Last updated or reviewed 27-02-2013