Basically, all humans including babies have five sleep cycle stages, that is, drifting off, light sleep, deeper sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep (to keep it simple)!
Deep Sleep is where your body produces Human Growth Hormone and this is critical to our growth and healing. We need more prolonged levels of Deep Sleep Stages when we are in our growing years than what we do in our later years. So babies, toddlers, and even tweens and teens need much greater amounts of sleep.
It is not abnormal for a newborn to sleep 16 – 18 hours per day. Compare that with a normal healthy adult who sleeps 7 – 8 hours per day.
Regular sleep routine
In order to drift off to sleep easily, it is important to establish a regular sleep routine – this is the tricky part with babies. Babies, particularly newborns, have not yet developed a sense of night and day, they just sleep and wake up whenever. It is important that you establish a sleep routine with your baby as early as possible, and this should get easier as time goes by.
Establishing a sleep routine
Establishing a routine with your baby will also help you, as an overtired new parent, get a better night’s sleep. Our bodies learn to produce gradually increasing levels of melatonin (the hormone used by the body to feel drowsy) at a certain time each night – the body learns this based on the time you regularly go to bed. If you start to play with your body clock, your body will never really know when to start producing sufficient amounts of this hormone to make you feel tired. This is what helps cause Insomnia. So a consistent sleep routine is really valuable for maintaining a great sleep quality.
Equally, establishing a good sleep routine with your baby will mean that you wake up less during the night. In the case of a newborn baby, you can prevent it, but ideally, as soon as you establish a routine with your baby, you want to be sleeping through the night. Waking up or partially waking up is not good as this is what disrupts the amount of time spent in deep sleep and REM sleep phases. The more often you either wake up completely or even wake up slightly (i.e. not to complete consciousness, but definitely out of your deep sleep phase) the worse off you are.
Consistency is the key when it comes to sleep routines. Don’t fret that you are awake two hours then sleep two hours then wake two hours etcetera with a newborn because it is still a consistent sleep routine and your body will adjust to produce the relevant hormones conducive to good sleep and also hunger as long as your routine is constant. Remember, however, you should aim to still get eight hours per day for yourself and 16 – 18 for the newborn.