Sleep Habits and Disorders of Babies in the first year
Sleep is a very important physiologic need for a healthy physical and cerebral evolution of a baby.
The sleep cycle of a baby depends mainly on their age. In the first 3 months of life, the duration of sleep is 17-20 hours per day. Babies wake up every 2-3 hours for feeding and then go back to sleep until the next meal.
At this age, babies experience different emotions. An agitated state is when they move a lot, make sounds, and have irregular breathing. They might even open their eyes, but this does not mean they are hungry. In contrast, a calm state is when a baby does not move, has regular breathing, and does not open their eyes, even if there is noise in the room.
Between 3-6 months, babies sleep needs are less, 14-15 hours per day. This phase includes both light sleep – when the child hears surrounding noise, and deep sleep – when they do not hear any noise. At this age, they begin to have one period of 5-6 hours of sleep in a row at night and sleep less hours between feedings in the daytime.
Between 6-12 months, the night period increases, and during the day, babies have scattered periods of naps.
A sleep disorder is when either a baby wakes up more than 2-3 times during the night more than 4-5 days in a week; when waking time exceeds 20 minutes before going back to sleep; the problem is lasting more than 3 months; the presence of one of the parents is required by the baby to go back to into a deep sleep.
In these cases, we need the advice of a paediatrician to try to detect the reason for the disturbance at night.
Reasons of sleep disorder:
The reasons listed below are related to the 1st year only.
- They might be behavioral – a baby prefers a calm room, so best to regulate the temperature, humidity or dryness of the room.
- If the baby is hungry, they will be unable to sleep properly.
- Some mothers try to keep their child awake during the last period of the day, hoping they will sleep better and longer at night, but this is not true. Parents need to respect the rhythm of life. By the end of the day, the baby will be so tired that they will be unable to sleep properly and calmly. Here we have to remember that a good percentage of babies have a tendency by the end of the day to be restless or hard crying, which might last between 30 minutes to 3 hours. This is called the sunset crises. Parents suspect colic’s or hunger, but in fact it is related to the tiredness of the end of the day. This is not a sleep disorder. There is no treatment for it, but do not worry, as this phase will only last for a few weeks.
- Anxiety of the mother is another reason. Some mothers go to the room of their baby every now and then to see if they are breathing, change their position, or turn the lights on.
- Some theories talk about the best sleep position for a baby and its relation with the sudden death, which happens in the 1st year of life. This may disturb an anxious mother, especially if the baby chooses another position to enter in his deep sleep phase. Parents need to respect the choice of the baby; otherwise, they will face a case of sleep disorder.
- Parents must try to avoid giving their baby bad habits to make them enter into a deep sleep phase by either holding them, rocking, putting them in the parents bed, or feeding them even if he is not hungry, just to calm them down.
- Parents have to remember that some pathologies exist. Babies will experience disturbed sleep from reflux, teething periods, or other diseases that should be checked and diagnosed by a paediatrician.
To make an appointment with Dr. Nabil Cachecho, our well-respected Specialist Paediatrician, please call your preferred GMCClinics branch:
- GMCClinics Jumeirah (Medical) – Tel: 04 349 4880
- GMCClinics Tecom – Tel: 04 567 6888
- GMCClinics Trade Centre Apts. – Tel: 04 331 3544