How Much Sleep Do Babies Need?

Fact-Checked

Written By: Alison Deshong

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Sherrie Neustein

 

A baby’s brain and body undergo immense changes from day to day and week to week. While awake, infants get important nutrition from feeding and learn from the world around them. Sleep also plays a crucial role in promoting the rapid growth and learning that occurs over a child’s first year.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the amount of sleep a baby requires varies by age.

Newborns (0-3 Months)

At birth, the need for sleep is at a peak. In each 24-hour period, newborns should spend more time sleeping than they do awake. The National Sleep Foundation recommends newborns up to 3 months of age sleep for a total of 14 to 17 hours each day. This recommendation includes both nighttime sleep and daytime naps.

Infants (4-12 Months)

As babies grow, their sleep needs begin to decrease. Infants aged 4 to 12 months need approximately 12 to 15 hours of sleep over each 24-hour period, including naps.

Why Do Babies Sleep So Much?

Babies require more sleep than adults do, because sleep facilitates their rapid physical growth and brain development. In fact, research shows that in infants and young children, getting sufficient sleep is linked with greater physical and emotional development.

However, unlike adults, babies lack an established circadian rhythm, the internal biological clock that regulates sleep and wakefulness. This explains why newborns and infants seem to sleep randomly for short periods of time throughout the day and night instead of on a regular schedule.

Can a Baby Sleep Too Much?

There is little research evidence suggesting that too much sleep is detrimental for babies. But, sleeping more than the recommended amount in some situations might indicate an underlying medical condition. If your baby sleeps more than recommended, discuss it with their pediatrician.

How to Tell if Your Baby Is Sleeping Too Much

Experts recommend that newborns sleep for up to 17 hours per day. Unless your baby is sleeping for significantly longer, you do not have to worry that they are sleeping too much. If you are concerned that your newborn or infant is sleeping too much, consult with a pediatrician or medical profession about your baby’s symptoms.

Signs Your Baby Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep

Plenty of sleep is crucial for a baby to grow and thrive. Infants can experience sleep troubles, however. Problems with sleep are more common in infants who have neurodevelopmental disorders but can also be due to external factors, like noise. Addressing insufficient sleep in infants is important, because over time it can cause excessive weight gain in later infancy and other health problems.

Determine if your baby is sleeping enough by comparing their total sleep time across each 24-hour period to the amount recommended by experts. If estimating sleep time is difficult due to an irregular sleep schedule, consider keeping a short-term sleep diary for your child. A sleep diary involves writing down when a person falls asleep and wakes up each day. You can also bring your baby's sleep diary to the doctor, if you decide their sleep seems insufficient.

When an infant is not sleeping enough, they might act tired more often. In babies, tiredness often manifests as:

  • Crying
  • Rubbing the eyes
  • Acting more irritable

If you believe your baby is not sleeping enough, make an appointment with their doctor. In the meantime, try establishing a regular routine around naps and bedtime to promote better sleep. An effective sleep routine can include:

  • Singing a lullaby
  • Reading a book
  • Taking a bath
  • Turning on a night light
  • Putting on pajamas

References

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