Babies are known to sleep a lot, even though you might feel like the walking dead from lack of sleep. The truth is that newborn babies can sleep anywhere from 16 to 20 hours asleep. However, their sleep is broken up, and we are used to a large chunk. The constant waking then sleeping pattern makes us feel as if we never get enough sleep.
So, what do you do when you feel as if your baby is sleeping too much? Chances are your friends will tell you to thank your lucky stars, but a nagging feeling is telling you something is wrong. You want to see your baby’s beautiful eyes, and you’re beginning to wonder what is going on. Can babies sleep too much? Before you go too far, the chances that something is wrong is rare, so don’t fret too much. Now, let’s take a look at what you need to know.
Sleep: Crucial for All Human Beings
Sleep is essential for everyone. No one can go too long without sleep before cracking, except for some babies who seem to party all day and night. Sleep feels good! After a long day with kids and working, laying down on your bed is the perfect way to end the day! However, there are some great reasons why we all need to sleep.
Sleep comes in cycles. There are three phases of non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, all of them last between five to 15 minutes. Before you can reach REM sleep, you have to go through all of these, not that you notice!
- During the first stage, your eyes are shut, and you are going to sleep. At this stage, you can easily be woken. So, if your baby happens to yell, sleep is instantly gone. However, the first stage only lasts for five to ten minutes.
- Once you pass through the first stage, you enter stage two, which is light sleep. Heart rate slows down, and your body temperature begins to drop in preparation for deeper sleep.
- Finally, you have reached deep sleep. If you are awoken, you felt disoriented and confused for a few minutes. Deep sleep is the period when it is hard to wake you up.
These stages of sleep are important for your body! During deep sleep, your body starts to repair tissue, builds bone and muscles, all while strengthening the immune system. You want these stages of sleep to better your health.
REM sleep takes place around 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The first stage of REM only lasts ten minutes, but each stage keeps getting longer, up to one hour at a time. REM sleep is when you have dreams, some of them can seem insane! Your brain is very active, so your heart rate and breathing increases. Adults spend only 20% of their sleep in REM, even though it feels longer because we typically remember our dreams. Babies, on the other hand, spend up to 50% of their sleep in REM!
You might wonder why REM is important. During this period of sleep, your brain developments. Inactive sleep lets your body relax. Active sleep is like a workout for your brain, including stimulation. REM sleep is important for your baby because their brain is rapidly growing during the infant stage. Think of how much your child has already changed! REM also increases your child’s cognitive abilities.
Newborn Babies Sleep Endlessly
The most important thing to remember is that each and every baby is different. As much as you may want to, don’t try to compare children, even siblings. All babies, especially newborn babies, require a lot of sleep. They are rapidly growing. Babies wake up, eat, and then go back to sleep. Most parents think that their baby isn’t getting enough sleep because of this process, but the reality is that your baby probably is sleeping more than you realize. So, let’s take a look at what is considered normal.
Think back to your pregnancy. You probably noticed your baby had distinct times of activity. In the womb, your baby slept for 16 to 20 hours each day. After birth, your baby will spend an average of 16 to 18 hours asleep, but some babies do sleep closer to the 20-hour mark.
It is not an oddity for a newborn to sleep up to 20 hours per day. The first month of sleep involves a lot of development. Many doctors believe babies could benefit from a fourth trimester in the womb due to the development still needed. However, our bodies could never birth babies that large! It is impossible at this stage for your baby to sleep too much. If you believe that in the fourth trimester, you know that the first two to three months is full of rapid growth, requiring tons of sleep.
It is hard to put your newborn baby into a sleep pattern schedule. One day, your baby may sleep a lot, and the next day has less. Newborn sleep is unpredictable, which is frustrating for many parents. Unless your newborn baby never wakes up, even to eat, you don’t have to worry. It might seem like your baby is sleeping too much, but he is doing so because he is growing so fast! Chances are, the next day he will sleep three hours, wake up and eat, then go right back to sleep.
Understanding the Tricky Newborn Stage
Why are newborn babies so hard to understand? Your baby may decide that midnight and three are are the perfect times to party hard, while his parents are falling asleep on the couch. The reason why so many parents struggle during this period is that many babies come into the world with their days and nights mixed up! Instead of sleeping long stretches at night, you have to force your baby to wake up during the day to eat. Then suddenly, the sun goes down, and he is wide away!
Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution for fixing a newborn baby who has mixed up days and nights. Our babies aren’t naturally programmed to function with the sun, plus your baby is just now exposed to days and nights. Many babies in the womb are more active at night because mom has stopped moving. Walking throughout the day can lull your baby to sleep. So, after birth, they are stuck in this pattern.
Luckily, reversed sleep patterns will not last forever, even though it feels like it is an eternity. You have to try to create a bit of a schedule, with nap times and set wake times during the day. When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, remember to keep the lights down low. Speak softly, and don’t make a large fuss as you might typically. We all love to kiss and coo at our babies, but it encourages the sleep reversal. Within a month, the reversal should be over!
Typical Baby Sleep
Once the newborn stage is gone, you might wonder about sleeping patterns and your baby’s development. Over time, the amount of sleep of your child needs will decrease. Instead of the typical sleeping and eating pattern, your child will develop concentrated nap times and designed awake times. During this period, creating a routine can be essential to figuring out when to give your child a nap, making it easy to know how much sleep he is getting each day.
What are the typical naps like for infants? Babies between two and six months old will take three naps per day. The lengths can vary, but they all should be over 45 minutes long. From six months to one year old, two naps are the general guideline, but remember all babies are different. Each nap will last from an hour and a half to two hours long. As your child reaches one year old, you will probably begin the transition to one solid nap per day, lasting anywhere from two to three hours long.
If you are wondering what is normal for a child, take a look at the recommendations created by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is important not to be overly concerned if your child’s sleep isn’t perfectly in line. The recommendations are meant to give parents a baseline to determine what is normal.
- Newborn Babies: 14 to 18 hours per day
- Age four to 12 months old: 12 to 16 hours per day
- Age one to two years old: 11 to 15 hours per day
As you can see, they give a large range as to what is considered normal. If your five-month-old baby sleeps 13 to 15 hours, that is very normal, perfectly within range. If the same baby is only sleeping 10 to 11 hours, it may not be enough. The largest chunk of sleep comes from at night. So, if your baby sleeps 12 to 13 hours at night and still sleeps three to four hours per day, it is unlikely to be concerning. It is a lot of sleep, but he is getting a great night’s sleep and solid naps. However, if your six-month-old is sleeping as much as a newborn baby, there is no harm in speaking to your pediatrician if you are concerned.
Sleeping Too Much to Feed
The one thing that would be concerning if your baby is sleeping too much is if they aren’t feeding enough. Not only does your baby need to sleep a lot to grow, but he also has to consume enough nutrients and calories. If they are unable to eat enough, he won’t sustain his rapid growth.
Newborns are notorious for being very tired, but typically they have to breastfeed every two hours. Some can go a bit longer, but it is important for babies to breastfeed frequently for their growth and mother’s milk supply. Finding the appropriate balance between sleeping and eating is so important. We want our babies to grow!
What do you do if your three-month-old isn’t eating every three hours throughout the day? It would be a wise idea to wake them up. It feels so wrong, waking a sleeping baby, but you are doing to ensure proper growth. Babies, in general, need to eat eight to 12 times each day. A newborn baby will be on the higher end of that range. Inconsistent feedings slow down weight gain, leading to failure to thrive, which is a major issue.
Tricks to Wake Up Your Baby
If you feel confident that your baby is just extra sleepy, you will need to take extra steps to ensure he eats enough. Waking a baby who wants to stay asleep can be difficult. Here are some simple tricks to try!
- Unswaddle: Cozy babies want to stay asleep, who can blame them? Take off your child’s swaddle blanket. If that doesn’t do the trick, try to undress him. You want your baby to feel the cooler air enough to wake him up.
- Change His Diaper: If taking off the swaddle didn’t work, it is time to give the diaper change a try. The process of changing his diaper is likely to wake him up if the wet wipe doesn’t!
- Wet Wipes: With very sleepy babies, a wet wipe or cool washcloth along the face and neck can wake up your baby.
- Sponge Bath: The last idea is to give him a gentle sponge bath. Many babies hate to get a bath so that I would save this choice for last. A sudden bath time is a surprising way to wake up!
Medical Reasons Why Baby Might Sleep Too Much
We have covered all of the essential information so far. One thing is clear – sleep varies from child to child. It would be easy to leave it at this and tell you that your baby is fine. Chances are your baby IS fine, but mothers tend to worry a lot. Sometimes, it feels as if worrying is drilled into our systems as soon as conception takes place.
There are a few medical reasons why your baby may be sleeping too much. Because sleep varies so widely for infants and toddlers, doctors tend to worry more when your older child is exhibiting those signs. However, there are some reasons for excessive sleepiness in babies. Here are a few.
- Hypersomnia – very rare, with secondary and primary examples
- Medical procedures can lead to excessive sleeping for days afterward.
- An infection located somewhere in the body – check for a temperature. A fever of 100.4 or higher can be life threatening and indicate a serious infection.
- Kidney problems
The most likely scenario would be jaundice. If you speak to a dozen of your friends, a few will tell you that their baby had jaundice at birth. Breastfed babies are more likely to have jaundice, and it is likely to last longer as well. It can feel like a difficult cycle to beat, one that could potentially damage a successful breastfeeding relationship.
Jaundice can lead to your child feeling very sleepy. Your baby sleeps more, but he needs to breastfeed more. To get rid of jaundice, the best resolution is unrestricted, frequent breastfeeding. The goal is to flush all of the excess bilirubin from his body. The problem is that jaundice babies just want to sleep and nurse less vigorously than other babies. It can feel like the never-ending cycle. Luckily, with the help of a doctor and a lactation consultant, you can kick jaundice for good before long.
If all of the sudden, your baby is sleeping a lot, he may have reached a growth spurt! During this periods, your baby is undergoing rapid change, either mentally or physically. A child that is experiencing a growth spurt can be extremely sleepy, hungry or both. All of that is normal and only lasts a short period!
When should you expect a growth spurt? Here are the typical ages.
- First week home
- 7 to 10 days old
- 2 to 3 weeks
- 4 to 6 weeks
- 3 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- Nine months.
Try Not to Worry
Telling you not to worry is silly; parents just tend to worry about everything. Luckily, a baby sleeping too much is rarely an actual problem. It is crucial for you to remember that every single baby, including siblings, is different. Comparing how much your friend’s child sleeps with yours is just a recipe for bad news.
Newborn babies rarely sleep too much, even if it reaches 20 hours per day. All of that rapid and active growth takes a lot of energy of out your baby, so try not to be concerned.
So, when should you worry? If your baby has a fever of 100.4 degrees F, you should bring your child to the ER immediately. If your six-month-old sleeps just like a newborn baby, it is time to talk to the doctor. If your baby isn’t able to gain weight, talking to your doctor is highly recommended. Besides this cases, don’t worry too much and thank your lucky stars!