How do I reset my baby's body clock?
Here’s how to rest your baby’s body clock to help mature their natural circadian rhythm.

Babies are born with an immature circadian rhythm that begins to regulate at the age of four to six months. Thus, even though a newborn may need to take multiple naps, adding up to 18 hours of sleep, and by the time the baby is six months old, they may sleep for longer hours at a time.

Getting outside frequently during the day, going to bed at the same time every night, and maintaining a consistent bedtime schedule can help mature the circadian rhythm.

Things to know about a baby’s body clock

  • When a baby is in the mother’s womb, they are accustomed to sleeping during the day when the mother is awake and being more awake at night when the mother sleeps.
  • Reversing this pattern is critical to developing a sleep regimen, and it can take several months.
  • According to research, when parents integrate their newborns into their everyday routines, especially for the first four months, they adapt more rapidly to the 24-hour day.
  • Newborns typically sleep four to six hours a day, with longer stretches at night.
  • The infant will develop a more established sleep pattern, which includes the production of melatonin to aid with night-time sleep.
  • By assisting in the creation of a darker environment for the end of the day before bedtime, the baby will be able to fall asleep more quickly.
  • You can attempt to keep your voice low and avoid talking to or playing with the baby at night.
  • Avoid late afternoon or evening naps for the baby and feed them well before making them sleep at night.
  • Research suggests that babies can be three to five months old before they settle down at night and sleep for more than five hours.
  • Be prepared for routine changes as they grow and go through the phases of development. Keep in mind that sickness, sleep regressions, and teething can disrupt sleep routine.

It is a good idea to teach your baby that night-time is different from daytime from the start.

During the day

  • Open curtains
  • Play games with them
  • Take them out regularly

At night

  • Keep the lights dim
  • Keep your voice low
  • Let them sleep after you change their nightdress and feed them

Why are newborn babies’ sleep patterns unpredictable?

Unpredictable sleep patterns are also caused by nutritional requirements. From birth to three months old, it is common for babies to have erratic sleep habits.

  • Newborns do not yet have a circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm, often called the sleep-wake cycle, is an internal 24-hour clock that alternates between sleepiness and wakefulness at regular intervals.
  • In the first month, the baby may need to eat every two to three hours and every three to four hours in the second month.
  • They would not need to be fed at night as much when they get older.
  • These erratic patterns do not continue long, despite what may appear to be an eternity when you are sleep-deprived. By three or four months, some newborns can sleep for a longer time. Others do not until they are much older.

Understanding infant sleep cycles will go a long way to help you cope with the first few months with your new baby. It is critical to understand that their sleeping habits differ greatly from adults. When a newborn is small, they need far more sleep than adults do, and they sleep the same amount during the day and at night. This changes as they get older.

Babies stay up for an extended time, and their day sleep differs greatly from their night sleep.

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How much sleep does my baby need?

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), the following are some rough guidelines for how many hours of sleep the average child needs at various ages. However, each child is unique; some require more or less sleep than others, but the differences should not be significant.

Table. Sleep times according to the baby’s age
Age Nighttime sleep (hours) Daytime sleep (hours) Total
1 week 8 ½ 8 (4 naps) 16 ½
1 month 8 ½ 7 (3 naps) 15 ½
3 months 10 5 (3 naps) 15
6 months 11 3 ¼ (2 naps) 14 ¼
9 months 11 3 (2 naps) 14
12 months 11 ¼ 2 ½ (2 naps) 13 ¾
18 months 11 ¼ 2 ¼ (1 nap) 13 ½
2 years 11 2 (1 nap) 13
3 years 10 ½ 1 ½ (1 nap) 12
4 years 11 ½ - 11 ½
5 years 11 - 11
6 years 10 ¾ - 10 ¾
7 years 10 ½ - 10 ½
8 years 10 ¼ - 10 ¼
9 years 10 - 10
10 years 9 ¾ - 9 ¾
11 years 9 ½ - 9 ½
12 years 9 ¼ - 9 ¼
13 years 9 ¼ - 9 ¼
14 years 9 - 9
15 years 8 ¾ - 8 ¾
16 years 8 ½ - 8 ½
17 years 8 ¼ - 8 ¼
18 years 8 ¼ - 8 ¼

While the length of sleep hours is crucial, how well-rested a youngster appears or acts is even more important. If you feel your child is suffering from sleep deprivation, consult your pediatrician.

Suggestions for a better night's sleep

  • For your infant
    • Cuddling, pacifying, swaddling, or rocking are all soothing ways to try.
    • Encourage sleep at night by creating a calm environment (dark, comfortable temperature, relaxing sounds, or white noise).
    • Maintain a consistent bedtime schedule even if your infant experiences sleep regression and wake up for no apparent reason.
    • Keep nighttime visits brief to help you to get back to sleep.
    • By caressing the baby's back, you can calm and comfort them to sleep.
  • For your toddler
    • Maintain a regular sleep environment for nighttime sleeping and naps whenever possible.
    • Encourage relaxing activities before bedtime.
    • Encourage the child to sleep in their room.
    • Consider a plush toy as a comfort item.
  • For your preschooler
    • If your youngster is terrified of the dark, consider getting a nightlight.
    • Keep the room temperature comfortable and ensure the room is dark and quiet.
    • Avoid turning on the television (or any other electronics) in the room.
    • Maintain your regular bedtime routine.
    • Make and enforce sleep-related policies.
  • For your school-ager
    • Set bedtime limitations.
    • Keep electronic gadgets turned off and out of the room.
    • Consider when all screens should be switched off (computer, TV, tablet, phone, etc.).
    • Avoid caffeinated drinks, including sodas and energy drinks, particularly after late afternoon.

Why is sleep so important for children and babies?

Sleep is the cornerstone of healthy development throughout lives, but it is especially important for babies and children. Children require a lot of sleep. Most children will spend 40 percent of their lives sleeping.

Here are a few of the potential advantages of getting adequate sleep:

  • Better motor skills
  • Promotes growth
  • Promotes healthy weight
  • Boosts learning
  • Faster healing

According to research, up to 40 percent of children and teenagers experience sleep issues. These include having difficulty falling asleep or having sleep interruptions.

Sleep deprivation can have a detrimental impact on behavior, emotions, attention, social connections, and academic or occupational performance. If you are concerned that your child's sleep issues are harming their well-being, academics, or social relationships for more than two to four weeks, consult a doctor.

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Medically Reviewed on 4/20/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

Suni E. How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need? Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep/how-much-sleep-do-kids-need

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Newborn-Sleep Patterns. https://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/newborn-sleep-patterns

Raising Children Network. Phasing out baby sleep habits. https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/sleep/solving-sleep-problems/changing-sleep-patterns