Duration and characteristics of sleep phases in a child of the first year of life: norms of night and day rest for infants

Sleep is one of the most important components of a little man’s life. While resting, he grows and develops. Sleep phases in infants are characterized by their own characteristics. Understanding this process will allow mothers to correctly compose the daily routine of the baby, and the child will quickly adapt to a new life.

Sleep features of babies

The first few weeks after birth, the baby rests most of the day. Drowsiness, sleep are replaced by short feeding breaks. On average, daytime rest reaches 9 hours, at night – 10-11. Frequent awakening of the baby is associated with various reasons:

  1. Hunger. A breastfed baby wakes up more often than a peer fed with formula. This is due to the rapid digestibility of mother’s milk.
  2. Thirst.
  3. Discomfort caused by a wet diaper, cold or heat. You should not put on too many clothes on the crumbs before rest. If the house is cool, you need to dress the baby warmer.
  4. Stuffiness. The room in which the baby sleeps should be regularly ventilated.
  5. Loss of contact with mom if she left or got busy.
  6. Excessive agitation. The crumb, who did not get enough sleep during the day, gets very tired in the evening. Fatigue does not allow him to fall asleep easily and calmly.
  7. Tummy pains, colic.

Rest characteristics and duration change rapidly. The table will tell you the approximate duration and frequency of a child’s sleep up to a year. It should be remembered that these are average values. They change depending on the physical, psychological condition and temperament of the infant. 

Age, monthsNight, hoursDay, hoursTotal time, hours

In the first half of the year, the baby sleeps on average 3 times a day, in the second half – 2 times. At a year and a half, night rest takes 11 hours, and daytime rests to 2-2.5 hours once a day.

Rituals before rest

Having been born, the baby does not understand the difference between day and night for a long time. Established rituals will help him adapt to his new life. This usually happens at 6 months. To form a sleep pattern, you should adhere to the following simple recommendations:

  1. Try to put the child to bed at strictly defined hours. If he slept badly at night, a strong wind is blowing outside the window, or the baby is uncomfortable, the hours of sleep shift. Nothing wrong with that. The next day, you need to return to your usual daily routine.
  2. If you lightly stroke your baby or call him by name every morning, he will gradually begin to understand that it is time to wake up and get up. Usually, a breastfed baby wakes up early, then naps for a while, sucking on milk. You can quietly wake him up when he, tearing himself away from his chest, begins to fiddle and look for her.
  3. Every evening, weather permitting, you need to walk. The baby will oversleep the whole walk, and a child older than 4-6 months will already be happy to watch what is happening and slowly get tired.
  4. Feeding before bedtime, quiet, calm play will prepare the baby for a bath, after which he will begin to yawn. Before a night’s rest, massage and active games should be excluded.
  5. Dressing up for the night, fairy tales, lullabies will gradually soothe the baby and prepare for rest.

The ritual is based on the constant repetition of the same actions. As a result, approximately by six months, the child will develop conditioned reflexes that allow him to easily fall asleep at the same time.

Features of daytime and nighttime sleep in infants

Good sleep is important for children of all ages. In newborns, it takes almost a full day. In the future, it breaks, the intervals of wakefulness between periods of rest increase. A pronounced daytime and nighttime sleep is formed.

Up to 6 months, the baby sleeps on average 3 times a day. The first time he falls asleep after the hygiene procedures have been performed, he has been fed, worked out with him and played with. The rest usually lasts 1-1.5 hours.

During the day, the baby falls asleep after lunch. Before that, he managed to play, walk and replenish energy reserves with milk. Afternoon rest is the longest of the day.

For the third time, the baby rests in the early evening. This is a superficial dream that allows you to regain strength and wait for the night without overwork.

Night rest is the longest and strongest. Gradually, the baby gets used to sleeping all night long and wakes up only in the morning full of strength and energy.

Sleep phases

The recording of bioelectric oscillations in the process of studying physiological processes made it possible to find out that sleep is a cyclic process in which phases replace each other.

Sensors attached to the head of a sleeping person during an electroencephalogram record slow vibrations. Gradually they are replaced by fast ones. Soon they return to slow again. Such data allowed us to speak about the presence of two phases: fast and slow.

Paradoxical phase

REM sleep is also called paradoxical sleep or REM from the English “active eye movement”. Distinctive features of sleep at this stage are: 

  • active eye movement;
  • twitching of eyelashes;
  • increased breathing;
  • increased heart rate;
  • complete immobility of the body.

Body temperature and blood pressure may rise.

The paradoxical phase of sleep for newborns is very important. At this time, brain development is stimulated, nervous and psychoemotional stress is relieved, new information is processed, the endocrine system is rebooted and emotional. At this stage, the baby sees dreams that train and develop the brain. Dreams are so vivid that if a child could wake up and tell them, he would not be able to distinguish them from reality.

As children develop, the proportion of the paradoxical stage decreases.

Orthodox phase

The slow phase is called orthodox or non- REM. This stage is named because of the slow rotation of the eyeballs. During the orthodox stage, all bodily functions slow down.

In an infant, slow-wave sleep includes 2 stages. At 4 months or later, 4 stages appear. If in a newborn, the slow phase takes 25-30%, then by the year it is already 60-65%. This is due to the immaturity of the cerebral cortex at birth and the gradual maturation process in the first year of a child’s life. The proportion of the slow phase increases as energy is restored at this stage of sleep. A growing organism expends a lot of energy and requires more rest.

Ordinary Phase Stages:

  1. Drowsiness (alpha sleep). The baby falls asleep, but continues to respond to many sounds. Muscles relax completely, limb twitching is possible.
  2. Falling asleep (easy rest) is the transition from nap to rest. The child wakes up with extraneous sounds.
  3. During deep sleep, the body relaxes and the limbs become heavy.
  4. During the very deep sleep stage, children are completely relaxed. It is difficult to wake them up, and if it can be done, they are disoriented. The first time after waking up will be accompanied by crying and whining.

Phase rotation

With growth, the structure of children’s sleep also changes. In adults, a slow phase comes first, followed by a fast one. In a newborn  becomes orthodox. This is due to the fact that the parts of the brain that are responsible for the fast phase develop earlier. At 2-3 months, the infant sleep phase model becomes similar to the adult model.  

The ratio of the duration of the phases also changes. In one-month-old babies, REM sleep accounts for 70-75% of the total duration of rest. In an infant at 6 months, this stage is reduced to 35-40%. More clearly, the ratio of the paradoxical and orthodox phases of sleep in infants is presented in the table by month:

AgeThe fraction of the fast phase
At 3 months45-50%
At 5 months37-40%
At 6-12 months35-40%

The newborn usually wakes up every time the cycle ends. The older he gets, the more cycles are included in the rest, especially at night. Awakening at the end of the cycle no longer occurs. The child’s sleep cycle is roughly:

AgeDuration, minutes
1-3 months40
3-5 months to 5 years40-50
5-10 years60-70
Over 10 years old90

It is easy to see the transition from one cycle to another in a baby: without waking up, he shudders, whimpers, cries.

Parents often notice the restless rest of the baby when he wakes up from the slightest rustle. Or a deep sleep, from which it is difficult to wake up the baby at the moment when you need to go to the clinic or store. By themselves, these phenomena bother mom and dad. However, if you know the features of sleep phases in children, then it is easy to understand that periods of superficial rest and deep rest are normal physiological phenomena.

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