Keeping up with a demanding schedule and getting enough sleep might not go hand in hand. But when you’re sleep-deprived, you are more inclined towards experiencing frequent mood shifts, you can lose your energy or mental drive, and ultimately, you might even lose your capacity to remember things efficiently.
How Baby Sleep Cycles Differ From Adult Sleep Cycles?
And with compromised mental health status, your physical well-being is bound to suffer too. Sleep-deprived individuals can contract infections much faster than other healthy individuals.
The hours that an individual should sleep to function optimally, and the hours they could sleep may differ. However, resting for the recommended number of hours is necessary for maintaining good health.
Since their brains are still developing, it might be crucial for infants, toddlers, and teenagers to at least have a full night’s rest. Even when older adults might experience trouble staying asleep for the recommended amount of time during the night, it is good to take frequent naps to feel more rested.
In this regard, the sleeping behavior of a child and an older adult is similar. Let’s see how the baby’s sleep schedule differs from that of adults.
Sleep cycle stages and sleep patterns
A basic sleep cycle is divided into two subparts, non-rapid eye movement stage, and rapid eye movement (REM) stage. This doesn’t mean that these stages are the same in duration. For feeling well-rested and memory consolidation, all of these stages are important.
A normal sleep cycle graph has all these stages:
- Non-REM stage 1
The short period that can stretch out to minutes. This stage is the shift from consciousness towards sleep, marked with the relaxation of muscles, slowing down of breathing and the heartbeat. The brain waves also shift towards a more relaxed slowed down pattern
- Non-REM stage 2
This might be the longest of any other non-REM stage, where the brain slows down the metabolism even further. This is the narrow line between deep slumber and light sleep and could last for about 20 minutes. Here, brain waves are most relaxed with occasional spikes of activity in between
- Non-REM stage 3
The most required stage, this is what makes you feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning. This is where the body is slowed down to its lowest levels, with even the brain functions slowed down to the maximum limit.
- REM stage
This the stage where you start forming dreams, with rapidly moving eyes (hence the name). The very first instance of this stage during the night can go on for 90 minutes. This is the stage where the brain is suddenly more active, with rapid breathing and heart rate, which is close to the conscious levels of all these markers. But the brain more or less stops sending signals to the muscles to prevent any movements (or funny enactments of your dreams).
How is the sleep cycle of a baby different from the norm?
Aging reduces a lot of things, and one of those is the REM stage duration. A baby, in comparison, would spend most of his time in all of the sleep stages, including the REM stage, which makes sense, as this is when they are forming vital long-term memories.
Infants until the age of a few months often wake during the middle of the night. The pesky reason behind this is their tendency to jolt awake when they’re going from the REM stage to stage 1.
A baby sleep cycle chart has more frequent peaks that signify periods spent being awake or even lightly sleeping. And because they jump quickly from light to deep slumber, it is easy to put a new-born to sleep.
A child above the age of 3 to 4 months might take longer to pass out in comparison.
Deep sleep signs in infants
The deepest stages of sleep are during the end of stage 4 and REM sleep. Baby deep sleep signs include a quiet sleeping episode, with the usual rapidly darting eye in the REM stage, and an otherwise still body (with occasional movements).
Breathing is irregular during REM, but in the quiet portion of the cycle, the child will have deep and regular breaths. Children often sigh during their deep sleep episodes.
A new-born baby sleeps for most of the day, waking in between for food only. But a child below the age of one year could find it harder to stay asleep. They experience lighter sleeping episodes more in comparison to adults
Sleep cycle duration with age
Sleeping requirements depend on the individual or their overall health. Where healthy adults are required to at least sleep for 6 to 10 hours, a child is recommended to sleep for a longer duration.
The average sleeping hours with age are:
- Baby sleep cycles by age
New-borns sleep for most of the day (and night!) with a sleep cycle lasting for 30 or 50 minutes only, with bouts of wakefulness
Babies between the age of 3 months up to a year have a more consistent sleeping pattern. Their sleep cycles are much more extended
- Toddlers and children aged up to 5 years in age
Could sleep for more or less 14 to 16 hours, which is distributed throughout the day in short periods of a few hours
- Children from the age of 6 years to teenagers
They may require sleeping for 10 to 12 hours, but once they reach adolescence, these periods may decrease to a meager 7 or 8 hours
- Adults and senior citizens
Adults are required to sleep for at least 7 hours. Senior citizens might experience difficulties with staying asleep, which makes their cycles even shorter (5 hours).
Some individuals can have a rare gene that allows them to function optimally on 6 hours or less of sleep!
Even though we have been studying the sleep phenomenon for years now, there are still facets that remain underexplored.
One of these is the correlation between lack of sleep and some disorders. Sleep deprivation can be caused by neurological ailments and could lead to causing cardiovascular issues and a lessened immune response.
Thus, researching more about sleep could help us get to the root of many of these seemingly incurable disorders.