Why Do Babies Sleep So Much Differently Than Adults?

Just about every new parent has probably asked the question, “Why can’t my baby just sleep like we do?” It can be tough to be understanding when you’re feeling tired and sleep deprived, but your baby has some very legitimate reasons why she can’t sleep for more than a couple hours at a time for the first few months of her life.

There are several reasons why sleeping babies wake up, but the most common reason is simply hunger. A newborn’s tummy can only hold very small amounts of breast milk or formula. And, since his entire diet is liquid, it doesn’t take long to go through his system and digest. What this means in a nutshell is that your baby is going to be hungry every two to four hours.

Breast fed babies tend to get hungry even faster than formula fed babies. This is because breast milk, baby’s natural diet, digests more quickly in her tummy, so she feels hungry more often. Breastfed infants will typically need to eat every two hours, whereas formula fed babies may be able to hold off for three or even four hours. In either case, as your baby grows, her tummy will grow also, and she will soon be eating more and feel hungry at each setting and will not need to eat quite so often.

In addition to hunger, there are a number of other factors that can make sleep difficult for your baby. Unfortunately, she lacks the vocabulary to tell you, “mom, I’m too warm” or, “I’m too cold”, or “I’m uncomfortable”, so helping her fall back to sleep can be a bit of a guessing game, especially at first as you are just getting to know your baby. But don’t worry, before long you will begin to recognize different cries and sounds your baby makes, and figuring out how to soothe your baby generally gets easier as you go.

One other factor that causes babies to sleep in shorter spurts than adults is that their sleep cycles are simply different. Like an adult, a baby goes through periods of light and deep sleep. A baby’s sleep periods are much shorter than an adults, however. This is a built in defense mechanism for baby. If babies slept as soundly as adults, they would not be able to alert us (by crying, of course) when they were too cold, too warm, soiled, hungry, or any number of other factors that are uncomfortable or unhealthy for them.