Sleep is an aspect of our life that is essential to our well-being, our growth, and our brain development. In utero, it is between the 24th and 30th week that some sleep cycles develop. Also, the stimuli provided by the mom in her daily activities influence the development of a sleep cycle and the baby’s biological clock. It is the brain that governs the organization of sleep cycles. After birth, the organization of sleep is largely influenced by daylight, the feeding schedule, and daily activities. These elements (called time-givers) have a great influence on sleep cycles regulation. If they are regular and stable, the biological clock will be set more easily.
At birth, sleep cycles last 40 to 60 minutes. In the first months of life, the cycles regroup in 2-6 cycles per 24 hours. This means that even at this age, a baby is able to sleep six hours straight. Around 3-4 months, the brain is sufficiently developed to consolidate the biological clock and a baby will sleep better at night than during the day. At that age, we can see periods of uninterrupted sleep of 9 hours that can last up to 12 hours around the age of 6 months.
To promote good sleep habits, you must pay attention to your baby's sleep cycle from birth. For some babies, everything will be smooth and peaceful but others will wake up often, crying or hungry, forcing their parents to wake up and intervene.
Several factors must be involved to optimize your baby’s quality and quantity of sleep. First, it is important to create an adequate environment.
A dark and silent room
Many babies find it difficult to sleep in noisy environments. Also, you should ensure that the room is dark by preventing outside lighting from disturbing their sleep. Some parents even caulk the windows to avoid letting the morning light wake their children early.
Ambient temperature and humidity
The ambient temperature also affects the quality of sleep. The room temperature should remain between 18 to 20 degrees Celsius with 30-40% humidity. An overly hot room often affects the quality of sleep and may cause awakenings during the night. It is best to dress your baby in warm pyjamas especially if they move frequently during the night.
Also, it is recommended that babies sleep in their own room. Of course, when the infant is breastfed frequently at night, it may be easier and more convenient to keep the baby close. But when your child grows and their needs for food decrease, their own bedroom is the most appropriate place to promote good sleep. If you do not have a choice and your baby must sleep in your room, it is best to place a piece of furniture or a screen so that your child does not see you when he or she wakes up during the night. Seeing you could encourage them to call you.
Biological rhythm and naps
Parents should pay attention to any sign of fatigue shown by their baby. Rubbing eyes or nose, yawning or reacting less, show that it is a good time to go to bed. Some parents believe that we should wait as long as possible after the first signs, " to make sure that the baby falls asleep faster." In fact, the opposite is true. A child who is too tired becomes restless and this can harm their sleep. It is better to determine an appropriate bedtime based on the hints of fatigue and to keep this routine as stable as possible. This will help strengthen their internal clock and facilitate and improve their sleep.
Parents must also ensure that the baby does not sleep for too long during the day, as it would be at the expense of night sleep. It is suggested to prevent the nap from lasting longer than three hours and not to have them after 16:00, especially after six months, when your baby only needs two naps in a day. Long naps affect night sleep and could explain why some babies fall asleep very late at night. Parents should also avoid getting their baby to sleep around dinner (between 16:00 and 18:00), to avoid compromising their night sleep, especially around 3-4 months when periods of uninterrupted sleep increase in length.