Normal sleep patterns

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:45 pm
You may think the expression 'sleeps like a baby' is a compliment--until you've experienced firsthand a baby's sleep patterns. A newborn sleeps anywhere from 12 to 18 hours a day, but spread throughout the day and night. There usually are three- or four-hour cycles of feeding, being awake, and sleeping, throughout a 24-hour period. By three months of age, a child usually is sleeping 16 hours a day, but may still be waking once or twice in the night for a feeding. By six-months-old most infants have established a regular pattern of uninterrupted sleep for seven or eight hours each night. There are different methods of getting infants to sleep, ranging from rocking and comforting them to sleep, to putting them down before they're asleep, even when they're restless or crying at first. Whatever your approach, it's important to establish a sleep routine for both naps and nighttime that cue the child it's time to sleep. Giving the baby a special blanket, reading a certain book or playing soft music can become 'sleep cues,' even the act of drawing the curtains can signal it's time to sleep. By one year old, the number of sleep hours drops to about 14, but 12 of those hours are typically at night. Between four years of age to 12, and by age eight, sleep time drops to about nine hours. While most children give clues when they're ready to sleep, such as yawning, droopy eyelids, or fussiness, if children become overtired, it may be more difficult to get them to sleep. Once a child is old enough, having an established routine at bedtime, such as bathing, brushing teeth, and a bedtime story, may make going to bed easier for both child and parents.
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