photo credit via flickr creative commons

Understanding + Implementing Effective Sleep Behavior Part Two

Continuing Education via Newborn Care Solutions

Unraveling The Magic Of Infant Sleep

Adventure Nannies sent one of our staffers to a sleep-training intensive in Texas that was run by Newborn Care Solutions. In the upcoming weeks, she will share her notes and takeaways from the class so that Adventure Nannies across the country can learn all about sleep training! For more information, or to register for Newborn Care Solutions’ next training, visit them at their website! Now, onto Part Two of our Sleep Solutions Training course.

What Exactly Is Good Sleep:

-science once defined sleep as inactive brain function

-we now know that there are specific and highly active functions in the brain during sleep

-the earlier you put babies to bed, the longer they’ll sleep, opposite of adults

-worst assumption to make is that what is good for adults is good for infants

-the brain goes through a very specific set of functions in a set order in a well-staged process

-baby sleep cycles: wake/sleep/deep sleep/re-awake lasts about 45 minutes while adults have a 90-minute sleep cycle! Every 45 min. babies start a new sleep cycle, unless they’re preemies in which case they might have more like a 20 minute sleep cycle and every baby is different!

-two main types of sleep:

REM: (rapid eye movement) most babies spend more time in REM sleep than adults

Non-REM: SWS (slow wave sleep) adults spend 80% of night in non-rem muscles relax

-we cycle between the two throughout a typical night

-newborns and infants have a different cycle length than adults


photo credit to flickr creative commons


What Is REM Sleep:

-small, high frequency brain waves and alpha waves

-it’s when we dream!

-muscles are largely paralyzed

-upon waking people in REM report vivid, bizarre dreams

-referred to a stage 4 sleep

-newborns and infants spend up to 50% of their sleep in REM

-around 6 months this drops to 30%, depends on age and other growth factors

-adults spend about 20% in REM

-land mammals spend more time early on in REM, aquatic animals sleep less in REM

-extensive sleep as a result of pain post-circ, etc. or emotional trauma, babies who have a NICU stay experience trauma, need more sleep. Thought to be what helps our brain to develop neural pathways to deal with that and cope with it better.

-in teen years there’s neural pruning where it removes aspects of what neural pathways were needed and learned in infancy but are no longer helpful


photo credit to flickr creative commons


What Is Non-REM Sleep:

-non-REM has three distinct phases, N1-N3

-not usually dreaming, but twitches happen

-brain waves slow and synchronize, muscles are still active, eyes flutter and roll back at N1 stage

-more time is spent in N2 stage sleep than in any other stage

-eyes become still

-referred to as ‘deep sleep’

-delta brainwaves happen in N3

-N3 is extremely difficult to wake from

-most non-REM sleep occurs during the first part of the night

-temperature, breathing, heart rate and BP are lower

-N4 is the only stage of non-REM sleep where dreaming still occurs, though usually we don’t remember the dreams. Hard to wake from and makes you feel groggy.

-the only thing you really wake well to and respond to in N4 sleep is a familiar voice

-the elderly spend almost no time in N4


photo credit to flickr creative commons


How Much Sleep Do We Need:

Premature Babies: more than 20 hours a day, broken into small segments both day and night. Wake more often because they have to eat more often, often we need to wake the preemies to feed and remember the longer they take to feed, the more calories they actually burn while eating, main goal here is to get the little babe to grow!

Newborns: 16-22 hours a day, usually no more than 4 hours at once, more often it’s 2-3 hours at a time

3-6 Months: sleep 15-18 hours a day, beginning to have consistent patterning, three naps per day, two longer and one shorter, longer stretches of sleep at night, most can go to 8-12 hours overnight


photo credit to flickr creative commons


Normal Premature Baby Sleep Patterns

-detached from circadian rhythm, no sense of day or night

-seems totally random at first, but if you’re in-tune you’ll into their patterns

-their primary need is growth

-often wake frequently both day and night but not for long, usually for 20 minutes awake to eat (tiny tummies!) then they’re tired again

-often fall asleep on the bottle or chest

-patterns may be affected by NICU stays, eating and sleeping cycles regulated by the rest of the unit, check in with their NICU nurses if possible to identify patterns

-patterns may be affected by RAD (reactive attachment disorder) if they’ve experienced physical trauma, separation from parent due to illness, isolation or deprivation in early days. These babies don’t want to be held, don’t want to be touched and RAD prevents a healthy bond, they need more skin-to-skin touch with their caretakers. You can literally hold the baby while they sleep – forget sleep conditioning and focus on building bonds of security and attachment. Refer to a professional! It’s beyond our scope to diagnose or offer therapeutic advice.

-keep them covered! remember that the more they have to work to stay warm, the more calories they’re burning when you’re trying desperately to get them to gain weight.


photo credit to flickr creative commons


Normal Newborn Patterns Of Sleep

Birth To 4 Months:

-sleep will be random but will start to work itself into a pattern of waking in the AM and going back down for a nap 1-2 hours after waking

-sleeping for 1.5 to 3 hours, then waking again for 1-2 hours, and back down for afternoon nap

-waking again up for 1-2 hours, another nap

-up again for another 1-2 hours and then into their bed for the night, with possible wakings, depending on age and size

-don’t just let newborns sleep non-stop, they need to wake for feedings, can affect their blood sugar, glycogen in the brain, collect stores of brown fat which is critical to healthy brain development. They need to be regularly fed throughout the night, no more than 5 hours sleep at once max for the first little while. Listen to instructions from professional health provider.

-don’t make nighttime fun, no eye contact, no blue light (transfers through closed eyelids!), cell phone screen, no cooing watching movies, etc.



We hope this gives you even more of an understanding of the vital importance of succesful sleep for all members of the family, and how you as the nanny or newborn care specialist can contribute.  For more information about Newborn Care Solutions check out their website, and for more information from us follow along on our job board, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the rest of our blog.