World Sleep Day: Sleepy baby? Here's why!
Studies suggest that babies spend about 70 per cent of their time sleeping. (Representative image)TBC

World Sleep Day: Sleepy baby? Here's why!

According to the Paediatrician, ‘Sleep is as important as nutrition for a newborn baby'.

Have you ever been excited to meet a newborn so that you can play with them? And have you ever been disappointed because, as it turns out, the baby is asleep and as a result cannot play? Well, even if not, you’ll surely experience this one in your lifetime. But please don’t wake the baby up!

Newborns love to sleep and should never be disturbed while they indulge in the activity - it is the most-common pearl of wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Babies spend about 70 per cent of their time asleep, often, but in short periods. The only time a baby wake up is when they’re hungry.

For newborns, sleep is a highly dynamic developmental process. While many studies suggest a deep relationship between the sleep duration in babies and cognitive benefits in school-aged children, some also suggest a connection between daytime naps and their benefits towards language learning. It is also critical for the development of their immune system.

In this day and age, when all kinds of information are available on search engines, it could be quite exhausting for expecting mothers or new mothers to find the right questions and get the right answer. For a clearer picture, we spoke to the expert in the field, Dr Anupama Sen, MBBS, DCH (AFMC), a practising Pediatrician and a Family Physician with more than 35 years of experience, who further elaborated on the importance of sleep in newborns.

Q

Why do newborns sleep as much as they do?

A

Newborns need up to 19 hours of sleep for the growth and development of the brain and other organs. Sleep is as important as nutrition for the baby.

Studies suggest that babies spend about 70 per cent of their time sleeping. (Representative image)
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Studies suggest that babies spend about 70 per cent of their time sleeping. (Representative image)
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Q

Why do babies sleep in multiple intervals?

A

There is a biological clock in the body that decides the sleep and wakeful periods. A hormone known as 'melatonin' is released for the baby to feel sleepy which is associated with cues like feeds. When hungry, or wet, newborn babies wake up and once fed and warm, they fall asleep again. The mother also knows when the baby needs to be fed. As they grow, the time between feeds increases.

Q

Why do babies start crying when awoken from sleep?

A

Babies have sleep cycles of 2.5 to 3 hours. If they are woken up before that, the period of resting which has the REM (rapid eye movement) and deep sleep is interrupted. This leads to groggy, cranky behaviour. We must realise, that sleep is an important part of their growth, too. Well-rested babies gain more weight.

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Q

How is brain development related to sleep?

A

Sleep is the primary activity of the brain at birth. This is an important time when the neurodevelopment of the brain occurs. It means cognitive, motor, social and language skills all develop with a n,ight of good sleep.

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Q

How is the baby's immunity affected due to lack of sleep?

A

Simply put, if a baby is sleep-deprived, the T cells (these are a type of white blood cells that play a key role in the immune system. These cells destroy targeted invaders) in the body go down. So they catch more colds, flu viruses and other such illnesses. That’s how their immunity goes down.

Studies suggest that babies spend about 70 per cent of their time sleeping. (Representative image)
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Q

How does one ensure their baby gets enough sleep?

A

It’s important for the mother to follow a routine for the baby. Some babies are light sleepers and need a longer bedtime. Lights dimmed, no TV on, comfortable position in bed, well-fed, placed on baby’s back, nicely-covered but not over-clothed with face and head uncovered [are some of the ways the baby can feel comfortable and thereby sleepy]. If they get used to being rocked to sleep then that becomes a habit. In many Indian homes, the baby is placed on a swing to help [them] in sleeping. Colicky babies (babies who get abdominal pains) have difficulty sleeping.

Q

Why is the change in sleep duration important as the baby grows?

A

Sleep duration and sleep patterns change as the baby grows. [While] a newborn baby requires 10 to 19 hours of sleep, infants need about 12 hours and a toddler needs about 11 hours. This becomes 9-10 hours for a pre-school child (3-5 years) with little or no naps in the afternoon. The time for sleep changes, as the cognitive, social, behavioural and environmental developments occur [in the child].

It is safe to say that not only experienced granny and moms suggest long and multiple nap time for newborns, but it has established by science and experts that a baby’s sleep is extremely important for their mental and physical growth.

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