Hours of pacing, swaying or bobbing, and your baby just can’t sleep, even though it is so tired. The longer this phase lasts, the more you think your baby could be suffering from real sleep problems. If that is the case, what can you do about it?
How much sleep does a baby need?
A person’s need for sleep decreases with age. Infants require approximately 17 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period for the first few weeks and months. By the age of ten, the sleeping hour is almost halved (nine hours). Adults only need seven to eight hours. The need for sleep is therefore constantly changing.
In newborns, food intake and sleep are spread over day and night. About five sleep sessions are quite normal. By the sixth month, many babies would sleep a little longer at a time without waking up. During the first year, the need for sleep decreases, and only two naps are taken during the day. By 18 months, many babies have naps during the day.
It’s hard to say exactly how many hours of sleep your baby really needs. Even among babies, there are late risers and early risers. External factors also influence sleep – for example, illness. If your baby doesn’t stick to the recommended sleeping times, it doesn’t mean that there is a real sleep problem.
What are common sleep problems in babies?
What we understand as normal sleep cannot simply be applied to babies. In our opinion, almost all babies sleep poorly before they are one year old.
Common sleep problems in babies
A number of sleep problems are perfectly normal for a baby and will resolve on their own over the months and years.
- Your baby doesn’t sleep through the night and wakes up every now and then.
- Your baby often changes the sleeping position or moves around a lot.
- In the first three months, there is no regular day-night rhythm.
- In the first months, your baby will not be able to fall asleep on his own without your help.
- Sleep is interrupted because your baby is hungry.
All of this is quite normal and shouldn’t worry you. This can be observed in some babies in the first three months and improves over time.
Temporary sleep problems in babies
External factors have a major impact on your little one’s sleep:
Disturbed daily routine: Babies love routines. Always following the same routine when eating, playing, and going to bed helps children get some rest in the evening as well. So everything has its fixed time. If this routine is disturbed – for example, due to a trip or visiting relatives, then a sleeping problem could occur.
Teething: Does your baby often wake up rubbing their gums or ear? Maybe your baby is teething. On average, a baby starts teething at six months. Since this is not always painless, it could temporarily lead to sleep problems.
Changed sleeping rhythm: many parents travel during parental leave. Babies are usually between four and 13 months old. If the travel destination is in a different time zone, jetlag will bother your baby and sleep problems are inevitable.
Vaccination: There is no evidence that babies have trouble sleeping after vaccination. However, parents keep telling us about it. Restless sleep can be a possible side effect of the pneumococcal vaccination (three vaccinations in the first year).
Don’t worry too much if your baby is in restless sleep. First, consider whether there have been any recent changes that might have caused your baby to have trouble sleeping. Incidentally, almost a fifth of all children has sleep problems by the age of six. So you are not alone!
What is a sleep disorder in babies?
You should take a closer look if your child is fussy or unbalanced during the day because he/she doesn’t sleep well at night. Perhaps there is a more serious problem.
The night terror (Pavor nocturnus) is a phenomenon in young children. If you observe the following signs, it could possibly be the night terrors:
- Your child wakes up in the middle of the night but you have the feeling that he/she is actually still asleep.
- It is difficult for you to wake up your baby.
- Your baby is screaming and seems particularly anxious.
- The next day he/she obviously can’t remember anything.
Night terrors often occur in connection with feverish illnesses in phases of emotional stress or lack of sleep. This means that this is not necessarily a permanent situation either. The problems usually go away on their own.
Insomnia, on the other hand, is less drastic. If your baby wakes up or wakes up spontaneously, it can lead to a kind of disorientation.
This is expressed as follows:
- slowed reaction to external stimuli
- unable to speak unclearly
- spatial and temporal disorientation
- no memory of the time of awakening
This condition returns to normal after 10-15 minutes. With the onset of puberty, the chance of insomnia usually increases.
Snoring and pauses in breathing in babies
If you hear snoring at night, it does not always have to come from your partner. Even babies can snore a lot and even have breathing pauses (apnea). The reasons for this are often enlarged tonsils, malposition of the jaw, or a cleft lip and palate.
The result for adults: Despite getting enough sleep, they feel exhausted and suffer from tiredness. With children, however, the exact opposite is true: they are hyper and fidgety. It is best to talk to your pediatrician about this. If necessary, he/she will refer you to a sleep laboratory. Here you can determine how severe the problem is and how to remedy it.
Sleepwalking and frequent nightmares are also serious problems. It is best to discuss these problems with your doctor. Sometimes sleep problems in babies are also related to an organic disorder that can be treated.
How to prevent sleep problems in babies?
Whether your infant is suffering from relatively common sleep problems or a real sleep disorder, you should take action. Maybe one of the following tips will help.
A good sleeping environment
Adults and babies only fall asleep really well when they feel safe and secure. So make sure you have a quiet and cozy atmosphere. Avoid bright lights, noise, and too much chaos in the sleeping area. It should be a place where your baby can let go and relax.
Babies sleep best in the immediate vicinity of their parents. Therefore, your bedroom should be a place of rest where your baby spends the night in a room or bed with you. This also applies if you feed your little baby at night.
Falling asleep always means that your baby has to separate from you in a certain way. If your baby is resisting falling asleep, bedtime rituals may help. These should be repeated at about the same time every night. This allows your baby to get ready for bed.
Popular rituals are:
- a bedtime story
- a warm bath
- a baby massage
The ritual should not last longer than 30 minutes and should always be the same. Activities that would upset your baby too much are of course unsuitable here. This includes, for example, listening to loud music or playing too intense a game. Instead, use this time to say goodbye to the day slowly and calmly.
For a good night’s sleep
In addition, you should pay attention to the following things so that your baby can sleep peacefully at night:
- Your baby shouldn’t be sweating. A room temperature between 16-18 degrees Celsius is comfortable.
- Lay your sweetheart on their back to sleep.
- Use a sleeping bag.
- Choose a firmer mattress for the crib.
- Don’t feed a heavy meal before bed.
The sleeping environment should always be the same. If the environment has changed compared to when your baby fell asleep, he/she may react a little anxiously and no longer want to fall asleep. So it would be ideal if he/she learns to fall asleep unaided.
If your baby suffers from sleeping problems, a sleep diary can also help. This makes it easy to find out how many hours your baby really sleeps within 24 hours. If your baby continues to have trouble sleeping, it is best to consult your doctor.