A newborn sleeps 16 to 18 hours a day, in short segments of 2 to 3 hours. Babies have different sleep cycles as adults. Theirs is far shorter, and they spend more time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is the phase where sleep is the lightest, and brain activities are the most active. It is believed that REM sleep is necessary for their brain development. As they grow, their periods of wakefulness increase.

By 3 or 4 months, a baby’s internal rhythms are more organised, and most can sleep in stretches of 5 to 6 hours in the night. They also have shorter periods of REM sleep, and longer periods of deep, non-REM sleep. By 6 months, many babies are able to sleep through the night.

Signs of infant sleep problems

Some babies develop separation anxiety when they are about 6 months old. They may also begin to have difficulty going to sleep because of separation anxiety, over-stimulation, or over-tiredness.

Common signs of babies experiencing these night awakenings or difficulty going to sleep may include the following:

  • awakening and crying one or more times in the night after previously sleeping through the night
  • crying when you leave the room
  • refusal to go to sleep without a parent nearby
  • clinging to the parent at separation

Because sleep problems may also occur with illness, consult a doctor your baby begins having difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep, especially if this is a new pattern.

Signs of sleep readiness:

You can help your baby sleep by recognising signs of sleep readiness, teaching him to fall asleep on his own, and comforting him with awakenings. Your baby may show signs of being ready for sleep with the following:

  • rubbing eyes
  • yawning
  • looking away
  • fussing

You may want to speak with a doctor if your baby seems overly irritable and cannot be soothed. If your baby is difficult to rouse from sleep and generally seems uninterested in feeding efforts, speak to the doctor immediately for reassurance or further medical guidance.

There are many factors that can affect your baby’s sleep. The underlying causes are often treatable. We offer hospital-based and home-based sleep study for your convenience. Consult our senior specialist Dr YT Pang at CENTAS for an accurate diagnosis of your baby’s sleep problem.