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How Much Do Newborns Sleep?

Newborns Change The Way You Sleep Too

Many a new parent will tell a friend a horror story about a newborn baby that seems to never sleep, and parents really do feel like their child is never sleeping. That’s because when newborn babies are awake, they cry a lot, and that can make the wakefulness a wee bit more difficult to handle at times. The truth is, though, that newborn babies sleep more than they are awake. They just haven’t adapted to adult sleep patterns and habits, and of course, there’s no such thing as politeness with a newborn. The only tool a newborn has at its disposal is its screaming and crying, so if that baby wants something, it’s going to let you know. And that’s a good thing for you because you need and want to know if your baby is hungry or sick. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 PM or 3 AM. The baby has needs, and you’re going to have to tend to them, so how many hours newborns sleep is an important average rule to remember.

Sleep is very different for those freshly formed newborn brains out there, so it might interest you to learn a little bit about how your baby sleeps and wakes. The first three months of life are the most frustrating for parents. Until a newborn is about 3 months old, he or she will not sleep a full 6-8 hours a night. That newborn is going to need 8-9 hours of daytime sleep and 8 hours of night sleep, but this is not uninterrupted sleep, and that’s the major dilemma for parents. It’s very common for a screaming newborn to wake parents at the most inconvenient times or throughout the day, depending on if there’s a need like food or a diaper change. Learning about your newborn’s sleep habits will help to make the transition to parenthood a little easier for you. The more you know about how many hours newborns sleep, the easier it will be to understand your mission as a parent.

Newborn Sleep Pattern Basics

You might be wondering why your little one wakes up so often. The answer is that they wake up because they have a greater need to eat more often than adults do. Since their little brains are developing and their little bodies are growing so quickly, they’ll have a real need to eat every few hours. Adults do things a little differently. We have our breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we know the proper social etiquette for when to eat. Newborns don’t have this built in routine. They wake up whenever their bodies and little minds tell them that they’re hungry, and that means you may have to crawl out of a very comfortable bed to go take care of your newborn’s needs. If your newborn seems to be sleeping less than average, it’s good to remember that how many hours newborns sleep can be increased if there’s a problem reducing their sleep to something below normal.

A very important thing to remember as a parent is that if you have a newborn who doesn’t wake up to eat often enough, you need to wake them up for regular feeding times. This keeps them on a good feeding schedule and is healthier for them and you. Since you’re regularly waking the infant up, they are more likely to get on a better sleep schedule and one that more closely coincides with your needs. Babies can very unexpectedly have another need, though, such as a diaper change. In general, waking a newborn up every 3-4 hours is the recommended schedule for feeding. Don’t let it go beyond 4 hours. That little one of yours is rapidly growing in every way and their nourishment is vital. The most pressing thing most people wonder about in terms of newborn sleep is how many hours newborns sleep in a 24 hour period.

How Many Hours Newborns Sleep

Every newborn has its own sleeping world, and every newborn will be different. Some infants will sleep less than others, and that’s usually nothing to worry about. How many hours newborns sleep will depend on their overall needs. It’s based on how often they get hungry, how often they need their diaper changed, and of course, how often they get sick and need your extra attention. On average, how many hours newborns sleep usually falls in the realm of about 16-17 hours a day. This would be considered the norm in terms of how many hours newborns sleep. They typically wake up every few hours to eat, and if they don’t, it’s your job to jostle that little bundle of joy and give them their breastfeeding or bottle.

The important thing for you to remember on the subject of how many hours newborns sleep is that if your newborn deviates from this general rule, it may or may not be a sign that something is wrong. Obviously if your infant is sleeping less than 16-17 hours a day/night, then it might be time for a visit to your pediatrician. If it’s just a little less, it may not be anything at all, but not sleeping is sometimes a sign of serious illnesses in infants. While rare, general sleep disorders like Central Sleep Apnea, Insomnia, and even Restless Leg Syndrome can occur in infants. And of course, we’ve all heard about children who have an illness like cholera not being able to sleep at all and crying constantly. Any particular illness your newborn gets can cause your little one to stop sleeping as often or to cry more often. That’s because they’re trying to let you know that something is wrong. So when you think of how many hours newborns sleep in a 24 hour period – 16-17 – you can measure that against the sleep pattern of your own newborn and get a clue when something serious may be wrong.

Settling Into A Safe Sleep Routine

Newborns do have a fairly steady 16-17 hours a night of sleep, but their sleep is going to be sporadic, while yours is on a schedule. That’s really the only difference. In terms of how many hours newborns sleep, they usually sleep more than twice the number of hours that you as an adult sleep, and that’s a lot! It’s the sporadic nature of the sleep that can seriously throw your sleep off schedule and make life more difficult for you. Some parents try something called “room-share” where they keep the newborn’s crib in their bedroom so that they have easier access to the child and the baby has a constant sense of their presence. This is not for everyone, but some parents have found that their infants sleep more steadily if the crib is in the same room.

Sleep environments vary for all infants, depending on your parenting style, and there’s generally a safe sleep environment for most newborns, but if you need a few pointers, here are just a few things you should remember when setting up your child’s sleep environment:

  • Clutter-free Sleep Area: No toys or other objects in the crib during sleep time
  • Pacifiers sometimes help infants sleep, but you should never make the child take a pacifier if they don’t want it
  • Double check to make sure the crib meets all safety regulations
  • Some infants sleep better on firmer sleep surfaces, so if your child is having trouble sleeping, try a different mattress
  • Remember to always be soothing to the child, especially if it’s in the first few weeks. They don’t know night or day yet!

As you can see, there’s a lot of complexity to infant sleep patterns, and newborn sleep patterns are especially tricky. In those first few weeks, the little one is learning the difference between what is night and what is day, so this can be extremely frustrating for new parents who have to keep to a work schedule and still take care of everything with the infant and household. Just remember that if you’re frustrated, the newborn can sometimes pick up on those feelings, so it’s good for you to get help when you need it. Ask a spouse or family member to help you with that trying time. Your newborn is precious, and they for the most part really don’t know that they’re in the world yet. They’re learning things as simple as night and day, so don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling to keep up with the newborn’s sleep schedule. How many hours a newborn sleeps is something that’s just not in your control, so go with the flow.


As time goes by, your newborn will adjust and begin to be on a more regular sleep schedule. This is a small part of your overall life with your child, and it will slowly even itself out over time. If you suspect your newborn may have a sleep disorder or something really seems off with their sleep, it’s important to get to your pediatrician right away. They are the person who can examine your child and perform tests that will help you know what’s wrong with your infant. Remember, how many hours newborns sleep will depend on a great number of things, but it’s generally 16-17 hours a day. They will still wake up every few hours to eat, and this is completely normal.

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