why is my baby a light sleeper?

Why Is my Baby A Light Sleeper?

Sleep is one of the most difficult things to perfect. There will always be some sort of issue that can prevent you or your baby from feeling perfectly rested all the time.

False starts also known as night time awakenings are very common especially in infancy! These false starts could be the result of your baby growing and developing or they are overstimulated from their environment.

If your baby falls into the later half, which we explain based on age, then the actions taken to help your infant get back to sleep could play an important role in whether these wakings will persist. 

 

What Should My Baby’s Sleep Cycle Look Like Based On Their Age?

Every baby is different. These are just general guidelines outlined by scientific researchers. This does by no means suggest that you are doing anything wrong or that your baby is doing anything wrong!

Everyone develops differently, some babies develop earlier and some later this is perfectly normal! That being said, you are the expert of your baby and you can use these general guidelines to gage where your baby is in the process! 


Newborns (1-3 months)

Newborns have different sleep cycles than older infants or children. This is because their internal clock is not fully established. The result is that sleep onset can occur just as easily during the day as it can at night!

A newborn’s sleep schedule is predominantly focused around feeding times and their longest continuous sleep period is 2 and a half hours to 4 hours.


Older Infants (3-12 months)

After 3 months, once their internal clocks start to become more established, their sleep cycles begin to mirror adult ones. At 3 months, babies also start their sleep cycles with NREM sleep and progress to REM sleep.

At around 6 months of age, the amount of sleep they require reduces slightly and the duration of their sleep begins to lengthen to around 6 hours. 

Despite these changes, night time awakenings can still be very common even after your baby is a year old! This is because circadian rhythms get established at different times due to the environment your baby is in as well as their genetics. 


Children (1-5 years)

Total sleep decreases to 13 hours at age 2, 12 hours at age 3-4 and 11 hours at age 5.

In order to accommodate the extra sleep that cannot be achieved at night, daytime naps are common. This is why there is nap time during preschool hours! 

At this age REM and NREM sleep begins to approach adult levels which is a huge change as this means that your child will spend most of their sleep in NREM.


Why Are Babies And Children Light Sleepers? 

 There are several reasons why your baby or child are light sleepers. We will explain these reasons using science to help you understand why your baby is not sleeping. Our goal is to outline the problems so you can think of some solutions!

 

Circadian Rhythm In Babies

A potential reason why babies are light sleepers is because their internal clocks or circadian rhythms are not fully established.

At 8 weeks of age, hormone development allows babies to adjust their sleeping patterns to light and darkness instead of feeding.

At 9 weeks and 11 weeks of age, your baby starts developing an internal body temperature and their sleep pattern genes turn on allowing them to begin to have an adult-like sleep pattern. This means that they will spend more time asleep at night! 

 

Sensory Signals

Babies are more sensitive to light, sound and heat than adults as their only perception of the world is a dark, quiet womb. 

The sleep cycles in newborns are also less efficient than older children meaning that they can be easily interrupted.

Babies and young children have short intervals throughout the night. This period occurs 5-7 times a night for 1-5 minutes each time. Children and infants will often open their eyes during this time and survey their environment. If their environment has changed such as parent presence, lights or additional stimulation then they will fully awaken! 


Baby Sleep Promoting Strategies

You are the expert of your baby! These tips are information gathered from scientific sources but whether they work for your baby only you can judge. At the end of the day, your goal is to create a sleep environment that your baby can thrive in.

 

Create a Nursery for Sleeping

Creating a dark environment using 100% blackout curtains is an effective way to prevent your baby or child from waking up. There are receptors in our eyes that pick up light even when our eyes are closed! They give feedback to our brains and stop releasing melatonin (the hormone that helps maintain sleep) causing us to wake up!

Using a white noise machine could be an effective way to prevent your baby or child from waking up. The science behind white noise machines is they raise the environmental frequency so that when sudden loud noises happen they can be “drowned out”.

This is effective because consistent noise often doesn’t wake us up but instead it is sudden noise. These machines can also be soothing for babies as in the womb they are used to hearing the gentle sounds of their mom’s heart so playing something that sounds similar can promote relaxation. 

Removing toys and night lights can be an effective way to prevent your baby or child from waking up. The reason it is a good idea to remove these distractions is because your baby or child will see them and think it is play time instead of bed time. 

If you are interested in reading about the important features blackout curtains should have click here

 

Put children and babies to bed when they are drowsy but not fully asleep

This strategy not only allows babies and children to develop their abilities to fall asleep without assistance but also teaches self-soothing after a night waking.

This strategy is also effective as it allows your baby or child to fall asleep and semi awake in an environment that is familiar to them.

I’m sure that everyone has experienced falling asleep in one place then waking up in another location. This would be startling to anyone! 

 

Create a Pre-bedtime routine

Babies and children often thrive on consistency and routine! 

Use several calming activities that you can do with your baby. These could include a bath, reading their favourite book to them and singing them a lullaby. 

 

Now We Want To Hear From You!

Which tip have you tried? Are there any tips that we missed?

Did the science behind how your baby sleeps surprise you? What was the biggest surprise?

 

Leave a comment down below!

 

Citations

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15007289/
​​https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19956/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526132/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6175794/

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