The phrase “sleeping like a baby” implies a deep, restful sleep. But for many babies, nothing could be further from the truth. Restless sleeping in babies is caused by many different factors. For some babies, a certain amount of restlessness during sleep is normal, especially if they are very young. Older babies might be suffering from correctable environmental conditions that are causing the restlessness.
Infants go through a complete sleep cycle in less than an hour, according to the University of Michigan Health System website. This makes them very light sleepers. As babies grow, their sleep cycles lengthen. This helps them sleep more soundly. By the time a baby is around five months old, she can usually sleep at least for five hours at a time without waking up.
Newborns are naturally restless sleepers, according to AskDrSears.com. In addition, their sleep patterns are shaped by their feeding habits. Newborns need to eat every two or three hours around the clock, which means they wake up often. By the time you feed a newborn, burp him and change him, he may only sleep for an hour before you start the process all over again. Other causes of restless sleeping besides personality and hunger include being too warm or too cold and having too much stimuli in the baby’s room.
First, create a calm, quiet sleeping environment for your baby. Noises nearby can cause restless sleep, such as if you have a TV on an adjoining wall near the crib. Establish a routine so that your baby becomes familiar with the idea of falling asleep. If a comfort object such as a pacifier soothes your baby, then place it in the crib. It may help your baby soothe himself back to sleep when he becomes restless. Never place a blanket or large stuffed objects or pillows in a crib with an infant, however, as they can pose a threat of suffocation.
Restless sleeping might be a good thing for your baby, according to the What to Expect website. Your baby’s fussing might be her way of finding her thumb, or a more comfortable position. In short, she is finding a way to soothe herself back to sleep rather than relying on you to do it for her. This is a healthy sleep habit for your baby to develop. For that reason, consider holding off on comforting your baby if she appears restless while sleeping. She just might drop off back to sleep on her own.
In a very few cases, there may be a medical reason why your baby is a restless sleeper, according to the University of Illinois. Some babies have underlying digestive or other health issues that make it difficult for them to get a good night’s rest. If you have cause for concern or if you are simply worried about your baby’s sleep habits, make an appointment to speak with your pediatrician.