Essential Guide To Baby Sleep Cycles

The Essential Guide to Baby Sleep Cycles

Throughout the first few months of a baby’s life, they spend most of their time sleeping. Infants spend about half of their time asleep and the other half awake. A newborn baby may sleep as much as 18 hours a day, but that number will decrease over time. As they get older, your baby's sleep cycle will begin to become more like your own - it will last longer and there will be fewer naps during the day. You might be wondering what all this infant sleep talk means for you and your little one? Once you understand your baby’s schedule, you’ll be able to ensure that they’re getting the amount of sleep they need, and hopefully, you will too! Read on to see our guide on the different phases of baby sleep cycles by age so you can help them throughout it all.

Newborn Sleep Cycles

Newborn sleep schedules are the longest and most irregular of all baby sleep schedules. They tend to sleep around 8-9 hours during the day and around 8 hours at night. Most newborns sleep a total of 14-17 hours. A new mum might feel a little worried about this irregular schedule, but don’t be. The reason for your newborn's irregular sleep patterns is usually because they haven’t yet gotten accustomed to the circadian rhythm of sleep.

Newborn baby sleep cycles last about 40 minutes each, although a newborn baby sleep cycle length can range from 20 minutes to an hour long, depending on the baby. There are two types of sleep cycles for newborns: the active sleep cycle and the quiet sleep cycle. A newborn’s active sleep cycle is when the baby moves about in its sleep and is easily woken. Meanwhile, their quiet sleep cycle is more steady, with the child breathing evenly and sleeping deeply. As newborns tend to sleep lightly, much of their time sleeping will be spent in active sleep cycles.

Amount of sleep per day Day time sleep Night time sleep Daytime nap length
14-17 hours 8-9 hours 8 hours 20-40 minutes

6 Week Sleep Cycles

At six weeks old, your baby will likely be having longer sleep cycles at night. They will still likely sleep for a similar amount of time as a newborn- around 14-16 hours of sleep. However, the 6 week old baby sleep cycle length will be longer than that of newborns and the periods in which they sleep will be less stilted and irregular. At 6 weeks, they will start a stage called ‘sleep consolidation’, where they will combine two sleep cycles and sleep through them as one.

Amount of sleep per day Day time sleep Night time sleep Daytime nap length
14-16 hours 7-8 hours 8 hours 1-2 hours

3 Month Sleep Cycles

At three months old, sleep cycles are starting to become more predictable. The baby sleep cycle for 3 months old will be longer, meaning they won’t wake up as much from short naps. At night, they will sleep for longer periods - from 4-5 hours. As they grow older, they’ll be able to fall asleep on their own more easily. They will still nap a few times during the day, which will last up to two hours each. Similarly to newborns, they will have active sleep cycles, quiet sleep cycles, and dream sleep - when the baby is dreaming.

Amount of sleep per day Day time sleep Night time sleep Daytime nap length
13-17 hours 6-7 hours 10 hours 2-4 hours
Baby sleep cycles

4 Month Sleep Cycles

When your baby has reached 4 months, they will be sleeping for 14-17 hours, and their sleep habits will become much more organized as they start to get a grasp on the day and night cycle. However, a common change might also happen in the baby sleep cycles at 4 months old, called ‘sleep regression’. While a more coherent sleep schedule is being established, your baby may begin to wake up more during the night, and won’t be able to get off to sleep as easily. This is often because they have gotten used to your methods to get them to sleep, and expect you to continue to do this every time they’ve woken up again. They will have to learn to self-settle instead of relying on the parent repeating the same methods to get them off to sleep.

Amount of sleep per day Day time sleep Night time sleep Daytime nap length
14-17 hours 6-7 hours 8-10 hours 2-4 hours

6 Month Sleep Cycles

From 6 months old, your child’s sleep patterns should be much more similar to yours. They will nap less often in the day - around two naps - and will sleep for a much longer amount of time during the night - about 11 hours. They won’t wake up as often during the night as well, but will still need settling back to sleep when they do wake up at night. As your baby becomes more aware of the world at this age, they might worry more and display attachment issues, fearing being left alone by their parent, leading to some possible issues with getting your child off to sleep and with them self-settling. Over time, your child will overcome this and become more secure, being able to sleep better by 12 months of age.

Amount of sleep per day Day time sleep Night time sleep Daytime nap length
12-16 hours 3-5 hours 11 hours 2-3 hours

We hope you've enjoyed this blog post looking at new baby sleep cycles and how to get your baby into some sort of sleep routine. Check out our other blog posts for more tips and advice on getting your baby to sleep and getting them to sleep longer.

You might also like to read about how to Dream Feed.