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How to Get a Baby to Sleep Through the Night

Written by: Katy Foster

Updated March 31, 2021

 

As a new parent, you might wonder when your baby will sleep through the night — and allow you to do the same. If you're craving a full night of quiet, you aren't alone: parents tend to experience sleep loss and fatigue (1) in the months after their child is born.

To help new parents reduce the stress of these changes, we’ll cover how sleeping through the night is defined, when babies generally begin to stay asleep, and how you can get your baby to sleep through the night when they're ready.

When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night?

Sleeping through the night doesn't have a strict definition. However, people often say a baby sleeps through the night when the baby sleeps for six to eight hours at night (2), without waking up, in addition to daytime naps. By six months of age, roughly 62% of babies sleep for six or more uninterrupted hours at night. By one year of age, that percentage climbs, with around 72% of one-year-old babies sleeping for six or more uninterrupted hours at night.

It’s important not to push your baby to sleep through the night too early. Prior to three months of age, virtually all babies sleep in three- to four-hour blocks of time (3), without regard to whether it's daytime or nighttime. Around three months, some babies begin to do more of their sleeping at night, but this sleep is still interrupted.

Also, keep in mind that your night of sleep and your baby's night are different. If you put your baby down to sleep and they sleep through the night uninterrupted, they will still likely wake up while you are sleeping. For example, with an 8 p.m. bedtime, six hours of uninterrupted sleep leads to a 2 a.m. wake time.

Although your baby might not be capable of sleeping for as long as you'd like at night, as they grow older, they can learn to self-soothe. When a baby self-soothes, they are able to fall back asleep after a night-time awakening on their own, without your help. Research suggests that certain factors, such as putting the baby in their crib while they're still awake, having the baby sleep in a separate bedroom, and taking longer to respond when the baby awakens during the night can encourage self-soothing.

Is My Baby Getting Enough Sleep?

When your baby seems to wake up regularly throughout the night, you might find yourself worrying that they aren't receiving enough sleep. How much sleep your baby needs depends on their age. Babies — especially newborns — tend to sleep a lot during the daytime, so waking up multiple times at night might not necessarily indicate they aren't sleeping enough.

According to experts, your baby's sleep needs (4) are tied to their age:

Child's Age Amount of Sleep Required (Including Naps)
0-3 months 14-17 hours
4-12 months 12-16 hours
1-2 years 11-14 hours

To determine if your baby is sleeping enough, track when they fall asleep and wake up for a few days. On average, they should be receiving the recommended number of hours of sleep for their age group across each 24-hour period. For many babies, especially those that are younger, this sleep will occur in smaller blocks of time during both day and night.

Why Won't My Baby Stay Asleep?

If your baby stays asleep for a few hours at a time, that could be completely normal and healthy for them, even if it differs from your sleep schedule. Sleeping for short blocks of time, such as three to four hours, is typical for newborns.

Around three months of age, many babies begin to sleep for somewhat longer time periods. By the age of six months, a majority of infants sleep for six hours uninterrupted at night. Still, there's quite a bit of variation among babies when it comes to sleep duration. Your baby could be a completely healthy one-year-old and still not regularly sleep for six hours uninterrupted.

If you feel your baby isn't staying asleep for long enough, consider if any of the following factors are at play:

  • Your Baby Is Hungry: Often, babies wake from sleep and cry because they want to eat. If a baby consumes more calories during the day, they may still wake up throughout the night, but will be less likely to need feeding (5) when they wake.
  • Noise Wakes Up Your Baby: Background noise, such as loud neighbors or you watching TV in the living room, could interfere with your baby's sleep (6). Additionally, background noise can affect your child's mental and physical development as they grow older.
  • The Room Is Too Hot or Cold: Room temperature affects how well a baby sleeps. If your baby is waking up more than what seems normal, consider if the room they sleep in may be too hot or cold.
  • Your Baby Is Teething: Your baby may be crankier than normal because they are on the verge of their first tooth. Over 82% of babies and children (7) experience sleep disturbances when they are teething.

Whether or not you understand the reason your baby only sleeps for short periods of time, there are several strategies you can try to get your baby to sleep longer.

How to Get Your Baby to Stay Asleep

Many of the sleep hygiene tips (8) that work for adults are also useful for getting babies and young children to sleep better. If you want your baby to sleep longer, try the following:

  • Minimize outside noise and light.
  • Teach your baby to self-soothe by putting them in their crib before they fall asleep and keeping their crib in a separate room.
  • Engage in a bedtime routine, such as reading a book or singing a lullaby (9), that helps them relax and indicates it's time to sleep.

Most babies will begin sleeping for longer stretches as they get older, and these tips may help your baby sleep better in the meantime. If your baby's sleep habits seem abnormal, or if your baby is not able to receive the recommended amount of sleep for their age group, consider visiting a pediatrician to discuss your baby’s sleep.

 

References

 

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15068660/ Accessed on March 29, 2021.
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30420470/ Accessed on March 29, 2021.
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12236607/ Accessed on March 29, 2021.
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html Accessed on March 29, 2021.
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25973527/ Accessed on March 29, 2021.
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29375201/ Accessed on March 29, 2021.
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26215351/ Accessed on March 29, 2021.
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html Accessed on March 29, 2021.
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29195725/ Accessed on March 29, 2021.