Shutterstock 751607311

Slept like a baby? What are baby sleep cycles?

Sleep is essential for a baby’s growth and development, however navigating this can be tricky and difficult especially during the first year when a baby’s sleep cycle can be constantly changing.

By Bio Island Nutrition Team

Sleep is essential for a baby’s growth and development, however navigating this can be tricky and difficult especially during the first year when a baby’s sleep cycle can be constantly changing. Every child is different and will have different needs and requirements when it comes to sleep. Some babies will have longer naps during the day whilst others will only have short naps to get them through. Then you will have babies that will wake up multiple times throughout the night and some babies will sleep right through.

A sleep cycle is the time you go to sleep until when you wake and consists of both non rapid eye movement (Non-REM) and rapid eye movement (REM). For a child, the average length of their sleep cycle is 45-60 minutes. In contrast, an adult’s average sleep cycle is 60-90 minutes. Babies and children may need help to resettle if they wake up from a sleep cycle. As they grow older, they will learn how to resettle themselves and be able to continue through their sleep cycles on their own. By about 6 months most babies will wake up only once or twice a night. However, a sleep regression may occur between 7-10 months of age where they may wake more frequently due to separation anxiety.

Non-REM sleep accounts for up to 30% of sleep is a deep, restful, and restorative sleep with deep breaths and little movement. Non-REM sleep is followed by REM, this is where from about 3 months, the dream process occurs, and children form memories. During REM sleep their heart rate will quicken, eye movements become rapid and blood flow to the brain is increased. REM sleep is an important process for babies and children as this is when they go through everything they have learnt and observed during the day, forming, and strengthening neural pathways.

During the newborn stage, that is from birth to between 2-3 months, babies will sleep for anywhere up to 19 hours a day. Your baby’s mood and wellbeing are often a good indication as to whether they are getting enough sleep or not. If they are irritable when awake they may need more sleep however if they are content and happy, they are probably getting sufficient sleep.

The following provides a guide of baby sleep requirements and milestones for a baby’s first year of life however it is important to remember that every baby is different, and your experience may be different.


Sleep requirements


Newborn (0-3 months)

14-17 hours every 24 hours

  • Tend to sleep in only short bouts as they need to be fed and changed.
  • Start to develop day and night sleep patterns and by 3 months start to sleep more during the night.
  • Exposing your newborn to light during the day and a dark, quiet environment at night will help them to learn day and night patterns.

3-6 months

12-15 hours every 24 hours

  • Up to 3 daytime sleeps or up to two hours each.
  • By 6 months night sleeps may last up to six-eight hours.

6-12 months

11-14 hours every 24 hours

  • 2-3 daytime naps for between 30minutes – 2 hours each.
  • They will wake up less during the night but may experience a sleep regression and separation anxiety.


Navigating a baby’s sleep cycle can be a difficult and challenging time, however sleep is a crucial part of their growth and development and help to form vital connections between the brain hemispheres. Creating and implementing simple bedtime routines will help your baby form healthy sleeping habits.

This information does not take into account your personal situation and is general in nature. You should consider whether the information is appropriate for your needs and seek professional medical advice.

Always consult your healthcare professional before taking any supplements or if any concerns arise.

Articles you may like

Wellness Hub
Shutterstock 786703252

Sleep and pregnancy

Having enough good sleep when you're pregnant is important for you and your baby, especially in the last 3 months of pregnancy.

Read More
Shutterstock 1507918529

Promoting good sleep habits for kids

Good quality sleep allows your child’s body the ability to repair and rejuvenate

Read More

How is digital technology impacting your health?

Do you need a digital detox? Here are some ideas that you can try, that may help remove the urge to check your screen.

Read More
Shutterstock 1085099156

The stages of brain development from infants to teens

The first five years of a child’s life are the most important when it comes to brain development.

Read More