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Sleep schedules help your baby sleep

It's not uncommon for babies to have problems sleeping. No matter how much of a good, patient parent you want to be, not getting proper sleep really affects your own health and mood. Good, regular sleep is important both for a baby's development and for the parents' wellbeing. A sleep schedule can help handle sleep problems.

A sleep schedule is a schedule with regular sleep times that are adapted to your baby's age. You put the baby to bed, wake it and feed it according to the schedule's fixed times.

Becoming a parent is one of life's most bewildering experiences. It's unbelievable that such a tiny being can change adults' lives so completely. It can definitely feel hard to measure up as a parent, and even harder to see to your own needs, especially if your baby doesn't have a regular sleep schedule, has difficulty calming down or often wakes up during the night. Most people can cope with the occasional bad night's sleep, but if you don't sleep properly night after night it has all sorts of negative effects. Your memory and ability to concentrate will be affected, you'll feel tired, your immune system will be weakened and you'll have difficulty performing simple daily tasks. It's also common for feelings to get the upper hand, making you overreact to things that you otherwise wouldn't get fixated  on. That's why, when it comes to your wellbeing and parental duties, good sleep health is especially important.

A baby's sleep cycle

Everybody, whether they're a baby or an adult, sleeps in cycles. An adult has about five cycles during an ordinary night. Babies have twice as many. And between each cycle, there's a greater risk of the baby waking up. So now you understand why it's so common for your nights to be disturbed by the baby screaming. According to experts, a newborn baby's sleep cycle lasts no longer than 30–45 minutes. The first part of their sleep cycle comprises shallow sleep, which is followed by light sleep. Then deep sleep, followed by REM sleep. All four phases occur in every sleep cycle. Both children and adults get their best and deepest sleep early on in the night. This is especially important for young children, since deep sleep is connected to growth hormones. That's why it can be especially frustrating for parents if their baby wakes up and is wide awake exactly when they want to go to bed. But it's not strange – that's exactly when the baby has already had several hours of deep sleep.

A newborn baby's sleep is governed primarily by being hungry or full, and all babies are different when it comes to how deeply they sleep. If your baby has difficulty distinguishing between night and day, and if they take a long time to calm down, then you may need help finding a more balanced rhythm. Partially for your baby, but mainly so you can get through the day!

This is why a balanced sleep rhythm helps you feel better

Sleep helps us recover from our daily lives, at the same time as it helps us charge our batteries for the coming day. It helps us process our feelings, and strengthens our brain. It's easy to disturb our sleep rhythm nowadays by using our phones and computers at night. We sleep best when we follow our natural circadian rhythms as much as possible , and eat and exercise regularly during the day. The body loves routines. This is the kind of sleep rhythm that you can try and teach your baby early on.

Five tips for finding your baby's sleep rhythm

  • Ensure that your baby is full A baby that has eaten its fill can sleep through two sleep cycles without waking up. A hungry baby, meanwhile, wakes up more often
  • Go to bed early too, and take the chance to get some good sleep at the same time as your baby
  • Teach your baby to differentiate between night and day. Be outside during the daylight and stimulate your baby by playing with it. When the evening comes, make sure that everything is calm and quiet, and remove distracting toys from your surroundings
  • Does your baby have difficulty calming down? Closeness and movement are good ways to deal with this. Rock your baby to sleep, or put them in a baby carrier. Push them around in a pram, or drive them around in the car. Relaxing music can also help. Ensure that the bedroom is cool, dark and safe
  • Reduce your expectations. Your baby changes and develops all the time, and all you can do is the best you can to help them. You're not alone. What you're trying to do is establish a routine that works specifically for you and your baby – one which your baby will then learn and recognise.

What is a sleep schedule?

A sleep schedule is a schedule with regular sleep times that are adapted to your baby's age. You put the baby to bed, wake it and feed it according to the schedule's fixed times.

If your baby sleeps irregularly, often wakes up during the night or has difficulty falling asleep in the evening, it can be a good idea to try and accustom them to a fixed sleep schedule. A sleep schedule gives you clear routines for bedtime, food and sleep. In other words, it's a kind of food and sleep clock for your baby! A sleep schedule can help you keep things in balance and plan your day. The times in a sleep schedule vary, of course, as the baby gets older. A four month-old baby sleeps twelve to sixteen hours a day, while a one-year-old sleeps around eleven to fourteen hours.

Routines create a feeling of security and orderliness for your baby. But above all, they also create these feelings for parents, helping you to be more organised. A sleep schedule will, hopefully, also help you with bedtime, since the baby will learn when it's time to sleep. If you know roughly when your baby is going to sleep, you can rest and recover at the same time.

When should I start using a sleep schedule?

When a baby is four months old, its sleep can be muddled to say the least! At the same time, a baby at that age has matured somewhat, and you may begin to see signs of a clear sense of rhythm. It might be a good idea to introduce a sleep schedule at this point.

Sleep schedule for your one-year-old

It's common for babies to experience sleep problems around the age of one. A sleep schedule can help by creating fixed routines and hopefully better sleep for the whole family. One-year-olds sleep, on average, eleven to twelve hours every night, but you can't expect them to sleep more than five hours in one go. During the day, a one-year-old sleeps about two to three hours, divided over two stretches.

Sleep schedule for a one-year-old

Here you can see the rough sleep times for your one-year-old, depending on when they usually go to bed.

Put to bed    Wake up     Sleep 1    Sleep 2    Go to bed

o'clock         o'clock       o'clock     o'clock     o'clock

18.00           05.00          09.00       13.00       18.00

19.00           06.00         10.00        14.00       19.00

20.00           07.00         11.00        15.00       20.00

21.00           08.00         12.00        16.00       21.00

22.00           09.00         13.00        17.00       22.00

Adults with sleep problems also use sleep schedules to get better sleep, but usually as part of a bigger plan. This sleep schedule is based on how babies of different ages generally sleep - it's an average instead of an exact science.  All babies are unique, and can have very different sleep rhythms. Remember that this sleep schedule only contains recommendations intended to make your day easier – it's not something you have to follow to the letter.

Sources: (Contains a good table!)

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