What is sleep and why babies wake up at night?

What is sleep?

For about a third of our lives, we are asleep, and during that time muscles relax, the heart rate drops, breathing slows to finally respond less and less to the world outside. We know that sleep is needed for rest, repair and growth and more... However, we know how sleep is an easily reversible state - especially for our little ones!

Healthy sleep incorporates both the right quality and quantity of sleep.

Here are 6 basic principles for healthy sleep and healthy associations:

  • Forming good daytime and bedtime routine

  • Emphasise the difference between day and night as soon as possible

  • Create a sleep environment which is conductive to sleep (temperature, light, comfort...)

  • Put Baby to bed whilst awake

  • Not respond too quickly when baby cries (of course after making sure of few things first)

  • Not using sleep aids (rocking, holding...)

Importance of sleep in babies and young children

Most babies wake up at night and although some of them sleep 10-12h straight, be sure that most of them wake up at night crying out for their parents. You will find below 4 reasons and explanations for these awakenings - so stop worrying: your baby is absolutely normal :)

  • Sleep cycles: like adults your baby transition from REM (Rapid Eye Movement) to non-REM cycles, and when they do they often wake up, calling out or crying

  • Good and bad sleepers: Even if part of that is genetically hard-wired, there are also habits we can put in place to influence their sleep patterns

  • Teething and infections: there’s no questions that teething and infections wake children at night and disrupt their sleep. They both appear/increase from 6months age usually (babies start putting things in their mouths getting more exposed to infections for instance)

  • Dummies and bottles: many babies are conditioned to fall asleep (or fall back asleep) while sucking on something. Many of them between 6-12 months who use a dummy will wake up when it falls out

Unless you have specific questions about this content, my next article will be about how many hours of sleep your baby should get based on his age, and how long she should be awake.

Thank you very much - Magda

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