Sleep Duration: Night and Day
Please note that this section contains my personal notes from my readings on this topic.
“Under three or four months of age, infants’ sleep patterns seem mostly to reflect the development of the child’s brain… But after about three or four months, and perhaps even at about six weeks (or six weeks after the due date, for babies born early), parenting practices can influence sleep duration and, consequently, behavior.”
“Over and over again I have seen children who are put to bed too late. It becomes a vicious cycle: The child’s nap schedule is messed up, and the child is fussy in the late afternoon or early evening. This fatigue-driven fussiness ends in a wired state at bedtime, which interferes with the ability to go to sleep easily. As a result, the parent keeps the child up until he crashes. The next day the child is still tired, the naps are messed up, and so on. The circle never ends.”
Newborns and Young Infants
“During their first few days, newborns sleep about sixteen to seventeen hours total each day, although their longest single sleep period is only four to five hours total each day, although their longest single sleep period is only four to give hours. It makes no difference whether your baby is breast-fed or bottle-fed, or whether is’a boy or a girl.
Between one week and four months, the total daily sleep duration drifts down from sixteen and a half to fifteen hours, while the longest single sleep period — usually the night — increases from four to nine hours. We know from several studies that this development reflect neurological maturation and is not related to the start of feeding solid foods…
For some infants, the time when the baby first makes a socially responsive smile (usually at six weeks of age, or six weeks after the due date, for babies born early) is when social curiosity or social learning begins. However, under about three or four months of age, most infants, like my son, are not much disturbed by their environment when it comes to sleeping. When their body says it’s time to sleep, they sleep. When their body tells them to wake up, they wake up — even when it is not convenient for their parents! This is true whether they are fed on demand or according to a regular schedule… Hunger, in fact, seems to have little to do with how babies sleep. A much more likely canddiate for influencing a baby’s sleeping patterns is the hormone melatonin, which is produced by the baby’s brain beginning at about three to four months of age. This hormone surges at night and has the capability to both induce drowsiness and relax the smooth muscles encircling the gut. S around three or four months of age, so-called day / night confusion and apparent abdominal cramps (colic) begin to disappear…
What we can conclude, therefore, is that, for infants under three or four months of age, you should try to flow with the child’s need for sleep. Don’t expect predictable sleep schedules, and don’t try to enforce them rigidly.”
Older Infants and Children
“As children age, the amount of time they sleep tends to decrease…
I studied sixty healthy children in my pediatric practice at five months of age and then again at thirty-six months. At five months of age, the infants who were cooing, smiling, adaptable, and regular, and curiously approached unfamiliar things or people, slept longer than infants with opposite characteristics. These easy and calm infants slept about three and a half hours during the day and twelve hours at night, or a total of fifteen and a half hours. Infants who were fussy, crying, irritable, hard to handle, irregular, and more withdrawn slept almost three hours less overall, almost a 20% difference (three hours during the day and nine and a half hours at night, or twelve and a half hours total).
In addition, for all the five-month-olds studied, persistence or attention span was the trait most strongly associated with daytime sleep or nap duration. In other words, children who slept longer during the day had longer attention spans…
By three years of age, the easier to manage children in my study who were mild, positive in mood, adaptable, and approachable toward unfamiliar people slept twelve and a half hours total. The difficult to manage children — those who were intense, more negative, less adaptable, and withdrawing — slept about one and a half hours less, almost the equivalent of a daytime nap.
An important conclusion is that three-year-olds who nap are more adaptable than those who do not. But napping did not affect the length of sleep at night. Comparing nappers and non-nappers, night sleep duration was ten and a half hours in both groups. Those who napped, however, slept about two hours longer during the day, so their total sleep was twelve and a half hours. Therefore, it simply is not true that children who miss naps will “make up” for it by sleeping more at night. In fact, the sleep they miss is gone forever.”