If you are a new parent who is supporting dark eye bags from sleepless nights, we feel for you. For most parents, being sleep deprived seems to be the standard rite of passage, unless you are one of the odd few whose baby blessedly sleeps through the night.
But before you start thinking that you would never sleep in again, there’s actually an explanation for this. In total, newborns tend to sleep an average of 10 to 18 hours per day, which is far more than any other age group. Unfortunately, their sleep cycles are shorter, lasting only about 50 minutes compared to an adult whose sleep cycles range about 90 to 120 minutes. It is this that makes them prone to waking up when transitioning from deep sleep to light sleep.
However, you need not feel discouraged because even though your newborn will continue to keep you up at night the first nine months of his or her life, most of them DO learn to self-soothe which allows them to go back to sleep on their own. Teaching them the difference between daylight naps and night time sleeping will also help to activate their circadian rhythm positively. But even babies need time to develop healthy sleep habits, so here are a few things you can do to help them along.
Use White Noise
Your newborn is still trying to adapt to being out of the comfort of your womb. They are still trying to get used to hearing random sudden noises, instead of the constant womb sounds that they are accustomed to.
That is why white noise can calm a fussing baby by providing them with an environment that they are familiar with. It also helps to block out sudden unwanted noises around the house and help them to feel secure when transitioning between their sleep cycles.
Darken the Room
We can’t stress enough the importance of getting them to settle in for bed for the night in a darkened room. A dark room helps to activate a hormone called melatonin which promotes healthy sleep and help to orient our circadian rhythm.
So from week three onwards, make it a habit to get your little one to wind down for in a space that is darkened to activate their sleepy hormones. Their brains are developing at such speeds so make sure to give them the best chance at getting quality, restorative sleep.
Set an Early Bedtime
Depending on how old they are, the melatonin hormones in their bodies usually kicks in in the evening around 6-7 pm. Therefore the best time for them to receive quality sleep is from 6 pm-12 am, which in turn will help them to sleep better during the second half of the night. This is good training for newborns too and will help them to be less fussy. Of course, we also need to be realistic about sleep achievements in the early days. Remember to take it one step at a time as you are still getting to know your baby.
Keep to a Routine
Babies thrive on routines. They like to able to anticipate what would happen next, so keeping to a routine will also help them distinguish the time to fee, play and sleep. For babies that are around 4-6 weeks of age, parents can try to slot in a playtime session after a feed. Consider it a form of sleep training so that babies learn to recognise sleep times instead of just feeding to sleep. Once they know how to distinguish the two, sleep training would become so much easier.
Training the early risers
If your baby is an early riser, you can train him or her by keep the room darn until 7 am. This allows for their melatonin to extend their levels to keep them asleep.
Your room temperature plays a huge role too. A baby’s awake hormones can trigger from anytime between 2 to 7 am which coincidentally is also about the same time when it is coldest at night as well.
So make sure the temperature in the room is constant and comfortable to minimise the frequency of them waking up unnecessarily.
What about the late sleepers
Check that their last nap is not too late in the day, or too long because this will only push back bedtimes. So check your current routine end try to lengthen their last awake time before they get ready for bed.
If your baby is still finding it difficult to fall asleep late at night, then maybe you need to reduce the amount of time your baby is getting exposed to artificial lighting before bedtime. Start dimming the lights earlier than usual to allow melatonin to kick in and correct your baby’s circadian rhythm.
We hope that parents will find these tips beneficial and remember not to feel discouraged. Your baby will outgrow it, and their sleep cycles will continue to evolve with age until it matches yours. Before you know it, they will be sleeping through the night.