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Baby Sleep Cycle

In this blog I discuss the different stages of your little ones sleep cycle and how you can use this information during sleep training.

One thing we need to understand first is that a baby’s sleep cycle different to an adults. Adults usually have a sleep cycle of around 120 minute vs a baby's 45 (ish) minute cycle.

Sleep cycles in children begin to develop around 4 months – which is the biggest driver of the 4-month regression. Once they start sleeping in cycles, there are 5 stages your little one passes through.

Below is an approximate guide as to what stage of sleep your little one is in during their 40-50 minute cycle:

Stage 1) 0-10 mins

Baby starting to fall asleep

Stage 2) 10-20 mins

Baby falling into a deeper sleep

Stage 3) 20-30 mins

Baby heavily asleep

Stage 4) 30-40 mins

Baby coming out of deep sleep

Stage 5) 40-50 ish mins

Baby is in light sleep and is easy to wake

Why is it helpful to understand sleep cycles and timings?

Understanding a sleep cycle can help us to determine what is going on with your baby's sleep. This is why a sleep consultant requests your little ones sleep logs before suggesting the best next steps. We want to understand how your baby is sleeping, what their wake windows are like and if they are able to connect their sleep cycles.

If your baby is only napping for around 45 minutes (for our little one, his sleep cycle was 47 minutes!) we know they are sleeping just one sleep cycle. This is a key indicator that they are struggling to connect their sleep cycles.

Anything under 30 minutes is considered a 'cat nap'.

On the flip side, knowing the stages of a sleep cycle can also help us when it comes to knowing what time to wake a baby. You ideally don't want to be waking your baby during stage 3 (20-30 mins) as this is when they are in their deepest sleep. Not only will it be tricky to wake them, but consistently waking them at this stage could cause them further sleep problems.

How can knowing the sleep cycle help us with sleep training?

  • It helps us to know if our little one is struggling to connect sleep cycles

  • It helps us to plan how long naps should be and the best time to wake our little ones

  • It helps us to know if our baby is cat napping or not

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