My baby is sleeping poorly - what can I do?
Every baby has a very individual sleeping behavior, which is determined by numerous factors, such as the room temperature and general health.
But it is generally said that a baby sleeps around 18 hours a day in the first few weeks of life. Often, however, the baby does not sleep through the night, but divides these 18 hours into 4-hour segments.
How do I know if my baby is sleeping poorly?
Knowing if your baby is sleeping poorly can be difficult at times. If the baby is extremely tired during the day and often falls asleep, it can be assumed that he did not get enough sleep at night. However, it is also normal for babies to nap during the day. Here, the gut feeling is required, with which one can judge whether the baby is excessively tired or whether this tiredness is within the norm.
In addition to too little sleep, too much sleep throughout the day also leads to fatigue in the baby. If the baby sleeps too long during the day, it is no longer tired at night and will answer. So it sleeps badly because it slept too much overall. Sometimes it can be helpful to keep a log of the total number of hours the baby sleeps each day. This allows you to estimate how long your afternoon nap should be and how early you can wake the child.
Frequently, parents also interpret the baby's increased waking up as a sleep disorder. However, this is only partially true. It is perfectly normal for the baby to wake up more often at night. It is normal for the baby to wake up more often, especially at the age of six months to one year. This is because the babies are becoming more and more active and learn and experience a lot during the day. Everything has to be processed at night, which can also lead to more restless sleep. However, if the baby wakes up more often than average (e.g. every hour) and calls for its parents, one can consider whether there is a sleep disorder and what could be the reason.
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What can I do to make my baby sleep better?
If it happens that the baby sleeps poorly, you can intervene acute and long-term.
- If the baby has woken up and is crying, you can talk to him calmly or gently touch the baby. The baby often falls asleep again afterwards.
- In the long term you should try to create a constant daily routine. Meals and sleep times should be as regular as possible. Activities such as walking or bathing also have a calming effect if they are carried out in a recurring order. This can lead to a certain rhythm over time.
- It should also be ensured that the temperature in the baby's room is not too high or too low.
- A high noise level should also be avoided. If there are noises during the lighter sleep phases, the baby can wake up easily and frequently.
- It is also important not to let the baby sleep too long during the day so that he or she is tired in the evening.
Room temperature that promotes sleep
The right temperature is very important for a baby's sleep behavior. Especially because it cannot express itself yet. In addition, the body of a newborn is not yet able to regulate body temperature.
It is said that the perfect room temperature is around 18 to 20 degrees. If in doubt, you can feel in the neck or stomach of the baby whether he is too hot or too cold.
If you overheat, you can see damp hair or general sweating. Heat pimples or rapid breathing also indicate that the temperature is too high. When the baby is too cold, one can often see that the baby is moving around a lot at night. Sometimes the baby also hugs one side of the bed, where it is warmer.
If the baby is already turning on its stomach at a few weeks or months old, the temperature must be assumed to be too low. The normal age for sleeping on your stomach is around 5 to 6 months. In addition, a hypothermic baby often wakes up very early in the morning and calls for parents. This part of the day is often the coldest.
Clothes for sleeping
How thickly dressed the baby is very much depends on how warm the room is in which the baby sleeps. The sleeping bag or the blanket that covers the baby also plays an important role.
Sleeping bags are often classified by the manufacturers in TOG units according to their thermal effect. If you want to be absolutely sure, you can use tables as a guide, which contain the room temperature and TOG strength of the sleeping bag. These tables provide a recommendation on how thickly dressed the baby should be.
In principle, however, one can say that it is sufficient to put a diaper, underwear and pajamas on the baby. However, you can always check the baby's tummy, neck or chest to see how warm the baby is.
A popular method is what is known as swaddling. The baby is wrapped tightly, which has a calming effect.
Find out more at: How do I swaddle a baby properly?
It is generally said that it is best for a baby to be exposed to as few stimuli as possible when falling asleep. If there are too many toys hanging over the cot or if the room is too light, the baby tends to watch longer and not fall asleep. For this reason, it should be as dark as possible in the room. At the age of the babies there is no fear in the dark, which is why a night light is rather superfluous.
How quiet should it be?
The same principle applies to noise as to brightness. The less external influences disturb the baby, the better it can sleep. For this reason, the baby should be put to sleep in as quiet a place as possible. However, there are also babies who can sleep well with low noise levels. Here the baby's individual noise perception should be compared with the spatial possibilities
What is disturbing the baby's sleep?
The possible sources of disturbance for a baby's poor sleep are very diverse. Environmental influences such as temperature, noise or brightness can be a source of interference. Fortunately, these influences can be changed.
A change in the weather can also have a negative impact on sleep in some children. However, it is also possible that certain experiences or circumstances disturb the baby's sleep. It has often been observed that babies sleep worse after moving or traveling. A quarrel between the parents can also affect the baby's sleep behavior. However, after a short period of time, the baby is used to the circumstances and sleep improves again.
A common cause of sleep problems in babies is the development spurt. A development spurt describes a sudden progress in the child's development, e.g. when the baby learns to crawl or walk. A few days before the development spurt, the baby is often tearful, unbalanced and has trouble sleeping. After the development spurt, however, sleep behavior is usually normalized again.
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Teething is handled differently by each child. Sometimes severe pain can occur, which makes the baby cry a lot and sleep poorly. However, it is not always easy to determine whether the teeth are really to blame for the baby's sleep problems. Here you can check whether the gums are reddened and the baby is also crying on the parents' arm. A warm cheek is also an indication of teething. Teething gel can be given to the baby to relieve the pain. This gel has an analgesic effect. A cold, damp washcloth can also help when the baby is chewing on it.
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Normal sleep behavior of a baby
At the beginning of sleep there is always a so-called sleep phase. This initiates the sleep cycle, which consists of two different phases. However, if the sleep phase is missed, it is usually necessary to wait until the next sleep cycle.
A newborn's sleep cycle is approximately 50 minutes. Missing a sleep phase means that the child is unlikely to fall asleep again within the same sleep cycle. Once the baby has fallen asleep, the first lively phase of sleep often occurs. This sleep is called REM sleep and involves movement of the limbs and eyes. The eyes can also be open for a few seconds. This is followed by the relaxed non-REM phase. Here the baby is rather calm and shows relaxed facial expressions. Then the two phases of sleep continue to alternate.
Between the four-hour sleep periods, there are wake phases in which the baby wants to drink or cuddle. Newborns in particular lack a day-night rhythm in the first few weeks. When the baby has reached the age of around 3 months, it will sleep for around 5 hours at a time, alternating between deeper and lighter sleep phases. One divides into a paradoxical sleep, peaceful sleep and deep sleep. At the end of deep sleep, the baby may wake up more often. This is a completely normal process, but it usually resolves itself: the baby usually falls asleep again on its own.
There are also different phases of sleep in toddler age, but the child usually sleeps through the night without the parents having to calm him down during the waking phases.
How long does a baby sleep in a row?
The length of sleep increases as the baby develops. It is said that in the first few weeks a newborn sleeps about 4 hours at a time. From the age of three months, the baby now sleeps about 5 hours at a time. Sometimes the duration can be up to 6-8 hours at a time.
From the age of one year, the baby is a toddler. A toddler's sleep often occurs without waking up at night. The duration of sleep is between 11 and 13 hours.
A baby's need for sleep
- In the first few weeks, the baby has a very high need for sleep. It is about 18 hours a day, with sleep always taking place in pieces and no distinction is made between day and night.
- After about 4 to 6 months, night and day can now be distinguished from the baby. The daily sleep duration also slowly decreases while the individual sleep periods last longer.
- After 6 to 12 months, the children mostly sleep at night. The nightly sleep time is about 11 hours. During the day, however, there are also small naps, which last about 1-2 hours and usually take place twice a day.
- In the second year of life, the children's sleep is now limited to about 13 hours. Of this, 11 hours of sleeping time are used for the night and two hours for afternoon nap.
- In the third year of life, the nightly sleep time is only about 12 hours and the afternoon nap is often omitted.