For some new moms, the phrase “sleeping like a baby” will suddenly seem like a cruel joke. Many babies seem to resist sleep and wake up at every opportunity they get. In actuality, your baby is probably sleeping normally, but your perception of it is incorrect. Since adults aim to sleep for a solid eight hours every night, it will seem odd that your infant is up every few hours. This is perfectly normal, and the circadian sleep cycle we feel comfortable with won’t kick in until he or she is at least one month old. However, you should monitor your baby’s sleep cycles closely if you notice that he or she seems to be sleeping too little. Sleep is an essential part to your baby’s mental and physical development, so keep track of how much sleep he or she is getting if you notice any abnormalities.

On average, your newborn should be sleeping between approximately 10.5 to 18 hours a day. In other words, you should be spending about eight waking hours with him or her over the course of 24-hours, but these eight hours might come in small chunks of time. However, keep in mind that every baby is different, and even your own baby might change his or her cycle on a daily basis. Depending on when hunger or a bowel movement occurs, your baby might wake up at different intervals every day.

Humans grow faster in the first year of life than any other time. A baby’s body is working overtime to grow and develop everything from the teeth to the toes to the hair. Sleep allows the body to relax and recharge to keep the development going. A recent study explored the negative side effects of an infant not getting enough sleep, and some results were surprising. First, sleep disturbances could become chronic. If your baby is having trouble staying asleep, he might have this problem through childhood as well. Later obesity and behavioral problems were also cited as possible side effects. Finally, mothers with infants that cannot stay asleep are more likely to develop maternal depression, most likely because their own sleep is also compromised.

If your baby is not sleeping for at least ten hours every day, contact your doctor. He or she might be able to provide treatment or advice about keeping an overactive baby down, such as white noise and swaddling techniques.

Source: Michael D Nevaraz et al: Associations of Early Life Risk Factors with Infant Sleep Duration. The American Academy of Pediatrics Volume 10 Issue 3 pp. 187-193 June 2010