07914921222 deb@savvytotsleep.com

Well – one thing’s for sure, you are very lucky parents if your baby doesn’t have have a few nights (or sometimes even weeks) of sleep difficulties in the first 6 months of life.

The most common sleep regression occurs between 3 – 5 months of age.

THE REASON?

During the first few months (3 – 5 months) babies go straight into REM (active) sleep. What is REM? Rapid Eye Movement sounds more complicated than it really is. It’s just a name that refers to a phase of sleep. Babies spend 50% of their time in REM sleep (that’s why they make those jerky movements). REM sleep is thought to be when we process things in our memory banks. No wonder babies need more REM sleep!

Non REM sleep is the really still part of sleep. The part that makes you wonder if your baby is still breathing and coined the phrase “sleeping like a baby”. Non REM sleep is necessary for growth and tissue repair.

A baby’s sleep pattern changes between 3 – 5 months old as the human body matures. At this stage babies sleep cycle is more like an adult’s as they enter sleep through the four non REM sleep stages

BEFORE entering REM sleep. It may take up to 30 minutes for a baby to transition though stage 1 & 2 before entering the deepest sleep stages of 3 & 4of non REM sleep.

We all go through sleep cycles throughout the night. This means we transition from light to deep sleep and on average wake 3 – 4 times per night.

It is important to remember we have more deep sleep (non REM) during the first half of the night and more light sleep (REM) during the second half of the night. Hence the reason for babies learning to sleep more solidly (hopefully around five hours) during the first half of the night. During the second half of the night more frequent REM sleep means more waking in between sleep cycles.

STAGES OF SLEEP

This is a typical night of REM and Non REM sleep in an older baby (over 3 – 5 months);

  • Awake
  • Drowsy – non REM stage 1
  • Light sleep non REM stage 2
  • Deep sleep non REM stage 3
  • Deeper sleep for about 60 mins non REM stage 4
  • Light sleep non REM stage 2
  • Brief waking
  • Light sleep non REM stage 2
  • Deep sleep for 60 – 120 mins non REM stage 4
  • Light sleep non REM stage 2
  • REM sleep#Brief waking
  • Light sleep non REM stage 2
  • REM sleep
  • Brief waking
  • Light sleep non REM stage 2
  • REM sleep
  • Brief waking
  • Light sleep non REM stage 2
  • Deep sleep non REM stage 3 & 4
  • Brief waking
  • REM sleep
  • Brief waking
  • Light sleep non REM stage 2
  • Awake

Now we know there is more REM sleep during the second half of the night when babies are more likely to night wake what can we do about it?

This is when parents can start sleep teaching. We know you’re tired and at your lowest ebb. BUT believe us when we say the energy you put into sleep teaching now will pay huge rewards in the months to come.

So – if your 3 – 5 month old baby wakes every 60 – 90 minutes after midnight in between sleep cycles you need to teach self settling to enable your baby to get the benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Here are some things to try if baby wakes:

  1. STOP! LOOK and LISTEN before picking up baby. Many babies naturally cry out a little in between sleep cycles.

  2. If you are sure baby is well fed get dad to attend to baby. (Mums are usually associated with food)

  3. Turn baby towards the wall and try gentle rhythmic patting on the bottom or back (without picking baby out of the crib)

  4. Give verbal reassurance with “shushing” noises – loud at first and then quietening as baby quietens.

  5. If you are certain baby is well fed and has a clean nappy try a mini version of the pick up – put down method. Pick up when baby cries and put down when baby quietens until they are happy to be patted or “shushed” to sleep in their own crib.

We all have to learn how to return to sleep in between sleep cycles. This is as much of a learned social skill as any of the other myriad of skills you will teach your LO over the first few years of life.