Babies And Circadian Rhythms

If you are expecting your first baby, it is important to understand what his/her sleep patterns will be and how they are affected by day and night. As babies age, they need less sleep throughout the day. The times where a baby is alert usually only lasts for two or three hours, at one month of age they sleep for over fifteen hours. By the time they reach six months of age, they tend to sleep between twelve and fourteen hours a day.

When children are born they have no natural circadian rhythm. Instead their sleep patterns are based on smaller ‘ultradian’ cycles which will repeat a number of times within a day. When a new born is just 2-8 weeks old, it will sleep for around four hours then awaken for thirty minutes, although this pattern is in constant flux.

Many new parents find their baby’s sleep patterns difficult, but the last thing you want to do is try and change them. The schedule of sleep that your baby is on isn’t up to you. By trying to change his schedule to fit your needs, you may cause his pattern to become even more inconsistent and cause him to take longer to develop the twenty-four-hour circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is one that consists of being awake for twelve hours and then sleeping for twelve hours.

Scientists have recently discovered a natural ingredient of breast milk which makes it different from formula. Interestingly breast milk created in the daytime contains less sleep encouraging nucleotides than that created at night. Nucleotides within the breast milk increased when nighttime approached showing how they follow their own circadian rhythm.

It is important that during the day you allow your home to be at a normal noise level and that you engage your baby with eye contact, which will help them get to know what makes daytime different from the night. Eye contact is very exciting for babies. Keeping eye contact with your baby will have a physical effect, blood pressure will rise, the heart will beat faster and your baby will awaken fully.

As night time approaches, limit the amount of stimulation give the the baby. It is also helpful to initiate a series of pre-bedtime rituals to let your baby know it is almost time for sleep. When your child reaches three months old, he should be able to turn two sleep cycles into one period of unbroken sleep. You may run into the issue that the cycle doesn’t happen at night. Night sleep gets much more routine once the baby turns four months old.