Tips to Help Your Newborn Sleep at Night

How to Help Newborns Get to Sleep

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the phrase “sleeping like a baby”. I’m sure that’s one of the last phrases you want to hear when you’re a new parent because at that stage of your life, you know that babies and sleep just don’t seem to go together. Of course, a sleeping baby is a pleasant sight, but so many of them seem to wake up from a pin drop. It’s even different when they’re newborns, as their sleep cycles are very spontaneous. You might be wondering how can I help my newborn get to sleep? The reality is that as a first-time parent and even an experienced one, getting a newborn to sleep is no simple task!

For me personally, I was starting to lose my mind. Getting my newborn daughter to sleep with such a huge undertaking. Not only was getting her to sleep extremely difficult, but making her stay asleep was a whole different ballpark of difficult! Even with help from family and friends, she was so much to handle! For any of you single parents out there, I can’t even begin to comprehend how difficult taking care of your child must be without any help. What really got me sometimes was how easily my daughter woke up from sleep. If I made one mistake such as dropping something on the floor or having my phone not on vibrate, it costed me my time, and less sleep. I was slowly losing my marbles and becoming more sleep deprived day by day. I started making more mistakes and was generally much unhealthier throughout my typical day. As a new mom, it was extremely discouraging to me and I was losing hope.

The funny thing about the saying “sleeping like a baby” is that babies actually do sleep a good amount of time, even if getting them to that point is a skyscraper sized hurdle. Most babies typically sleep somewhere around 17 hours a day. In the few amounts of times that you actually do get your baby to sleep, you should probably take advantage of that time and take a nap too. It’s basically a prime opportunity to be uninterrupted, at least for a little bit/while your baby is sleeping. It’s also important to note that most babies don’t stay sleeping for more than 2 to 4 hours at once. This is true for the duration of the day, as well as the night until they’re around 9-ish weeks old and they start to understand and learn to differentiate parts of the day such as night and day.

If you’re used to sleeping normal hours – about 6 to 8 every night, then I’m sure you are pretty shocked once you had your baby. Your sleep is severely interrupted and fractured once you have a baby enter your home. You do usually manage to catch up on sleep with naps at a time, which isn’t really beneficial because you probably won’t be able to reach the stage of deep sleep in this short timeframe.

How Exactly Do Newborn Sleep?

Newborn sleep is spastic and unpredictable. I’m sure many of you and your parents were quite shocked when you realize that it’s not actually possible to create a consistent schedule for your baby’s first few weeks of their life. Newborns require diaper changes, need to be fed, and need to be comforted throughout the day and night. This is where things get quite hectic and usually the parents are left exhausted due to the baby’s unusual sleeping patterns.

There’s actually much more science involved regarding why newborn sleep patterns are so hectic and unpredictable.

Babies don’t sleep for long periods of time compared to older children or adults because their REM cycles are much different in comparison. These REM cycles take up most of their time asleep. Babies need a lot of REM cycles so their brain can develop. Because REM cycles are shorter, this is the reason why your baby wakes up after only a few hours or less and is hungry or needs a diaper change.

This is why it’s not plausible for newborns to have sleep cycles/schedules until they are old enough to start sleeping for longer periods of time. As previously said, this is around the 8 to 10-week mark. They’ll start to differentiate day and night and will slowly begin to start sleeping for longer periods of time throughout the night.

Plus, babies at this age start to have less room for sleep time, but rather begin their journey into developing longer deep sleep and experiencing more periods of non-REM sleep. This is extremely important for development because sleep is crucial for brain health and various other functions of the body.

Sometimes, some babies start to differentiate night and day much earlier than others. Some begin to do this at around six weeks old. If this sounds like your little one, you can start to teach them to sleep longer at night. I will dig into that later.

Although, when your infant is around 4 to 6 months old, most babies that age will be sleeping between 8 to 12 hours throughout the night. However, some babies still wake up fairly often even as they are toddlers. You can do your best to combat that by creating your own sleep schedule that adheres to your newborns needs and that should hopefully allow them to sleep for longer periods of time.

Newborns Have Their Own Adjustment Timeframe to The World

Once you notice that your baby’s sleep starts to become more normalized, that is the prime time for you to establish great sleeping habits. Below are several tips to help your baby sleep longer and better:

  1. Teach and Show Them the Difference Between Day and Night

Believe it or not, you can start this when your baby is around two weeks old, even though trying to create some sort of schedule would be a waste of time. Although, you can still teach your baby how to tell the difference between night and day by ensuring that you’re playing with them during the day and talking to them, as well as making sure the environment is reflecting day time and such. This doesn’t mean you should play with them when they are tired or anything like that. Interact with them when they’re awake during the day and if you think that your baby needs to be fed and they’re still tired, wake them up for that moment. But remember that when it’s night time, don’t interact with them and talk to them, and ensure that the lighting is dim and that noise is as quiet as you can make it. Your baby should eventually be able to figure out difference between night and day once their sleep starts to become more regular and predictable.

  • Let Your Baby Nap More Regularly

You can capitalize on your newborn’s sleeping patterns by ensuring that they are only sleeping throughout the day when they truly need it and are visibly tired. Like I mentioned before, if your baby is awake and alert and wants to play during the day, absolutely take advantage of that and play with them! Babies tire out quite quickly, and when that does happen, that’s your cue to put them down for a nap. Some common signs of tiredness are pulling ears, rubbing their eyes, or other general signs of being tired. These are clear indicators that your baby is tired and needs a nap. A baby who doesn’t nap throughout the day enough is overtired which results in less sleep throughout the night which will make them even more tired the following day. That’s a lose-lose situation for everyone!

  • Put Your Baby to Bed at Night Even When They Are Awake

You can actually begin this process when your baby is about six weeks old so that you can get a head start on associating night & day with them. Even if they haven’t quite understood the difference, this is still a good time to start. Regardless if they’re wide awake and alert at night, they still need to go to bed. It will definitely not happen overnight. It’ll be incredibly difficult in most cases, and tricky to consistently achieve good results.  It might take a while but eventually, they will start to sleep longer throughout the night and be more awake throughout the day!

Now that you have a general understanding of why newborn sleep is so unpredictable and tough to deal with, you’re much better equipped to be able to handle it. This is just a standard phase of life for newborns. No newborn on this planet will go to bed in the evening and not wake up throughout the night. It’s basically impossible!

Although, once your newborns are a little bit older, you can start to go over and practice sleeping habits that will help them sleep throughout the night and stay asleep. By being consistent, practicing every single day, and not giving in despite how difficult it can be, you can actually train a newborn to develop excellent sleeping habits pretty early in their lives. This will save both you lots of headaches/distress and lead to much better-quality sleep for everyone in your house.

I hope this helps someone out, even if it was just one person and their newborn. Has anyone been able to implement any of these tips? Do any parents have any success with these tips? Any single parents out there – are you taking turns with your family or friends? Remember that regardless of how difficult it can be, time will fly by! Soon they’ll be crawling, and walking, and so on… And you won’t even notice the years have flown by! My daughter is already two years old! I honestly don’t know how time flew by that fast!

Above all else, remember to be patient, remember that they’re still learning how to live life, and always make sure that you enjoy them and love them to the fullest extent possible!

About the Author Elizabeth

Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth. My beautiful daughter Alice keeps me awake occasionally...but when I'm busy and can't sleep, I post parenting tips and different ways you can get your baby to sleep soundly through the night, and even naps!