Understanding Baby’s Light Sleep Cycles

Babies, just like adults, go through various sleep cycles, ranging from deep sleep, where they are practically dead to the world to light sleep, in which they may move about, dream, make noises and faces, and even waken briefly. Understanding baby’s light sleep cycles, and how to help fall back into deeper sleep, can ultimately lead to more rest for mom and dad.

If you notice your baby moving around, making hand or facial gestures, sucking, or making noises as she sleeps, she is in a period of light sleep. This is normal and healthy. Babies will generally enter a period of light sleep about once every 50 minutes. During light sleep, it is best to keep the baby’s environment fairly quiet so as not to wake her until she’s ready to wake up.

When a baby is in a light sleep stage, it’s a good idea to make sure she’s warm enough, but not too warm. Make sure she’s swaddled comfortably if she a younger baby, or sufficiently covered if she’s an older baby. A good rule of thumb for babies is to make sure they have one more layer than what is comfortable for adults in the home. Check the clock. If the normal period between feedings has passed, it’s likely that baby will wake up and want to eat, so you might want to prepare her bottle (if you use them) or be ready to breast feed.

If feeding time isn’t near, baby is warm enough, and doesn’t need a diaper change, you can usually get a baby to sleep through the light sleep cycle. If you find your baby is waking up frequently, try rubbing his arm or leg lightly when he first shows signs of entering light sleep. Or, you could sing or talk softly to him to help ease him back into deep sleep. Playing a recording of soft music is another great alternative. Make sure it’s fairly quiet in the area, and consider darkening the room by drawing shades or curtains if you haven’t already.

In the end, babies will wake when they’re going to wake, but you can help her stay sleeping until she’s ready to get up. Light sleep cycles usually only last a few minutes if baby is still tired and sometimes just being able to sense that you are there can help your baby through a light sleep cycle. Additionally, using soothing methods helps many babies to waken to a pleasant environment when they do wake up.