If your baby is having trouble sleeping through the night and you are wondering what is wrong, just stop. Apparently, while most moms and dads think it is totally normal for an infant to sleep 24/7 this actually isn’t the case at all. In fact, according to one expert, babies just aren’t designed to sleep the way we want them to.
"Human infants are not designed to sleep for long periods, it's not good for them, and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that there is any benefit to anybody from having a child that sleeps longer and consistently," Peter Fleming, professor of infant health and developmental psychology at the University of Bristol explained to BuzzFeed.
While this might seem strange, Darcia F. Narvaez, professor of psychology at Notre Dame University, points out that adults don’t even really sleep through the night, and just forget that they are waking up routinely. "We jam all our sleep into eight hours because we work during the day and that's just not normal if you look at the history of humanity,” she explains. "It's normal to have periods of waking up and short sleeps. With hunter-gatherers, they sleep for two hours and then they're awake and that's for the whole 24 hours."
Babies also have a shorter sleep cycle than adult — about 60 minutes compared to 90 — so it’s totally normal for them to fidget and wake more.
Narvaez also mentions that human babies are born significantly earlier than other animals — 9 to 18 months to be exact — and while many other species come out of the womb walking around and eating, we basically come out as fetuses. "So that means you want to keep that baby calm while the brain systems are finishing because they only have 25% of the adult brain-size developed, and a lot of systems haven't set their thresholds and parameters yet. They're expecting good care – like in an external womb or nest. We call it the evolved developmental niche or nest," she explains.
If your baby does wake up more frequently than others, it might be because they are more intelligent and have better mental health. Fleming maintains there is a link between "very high levels of developmental and intellectual achievement and not sleeping throughout the night."
Babies also don't like to be away from their parents — and sleeping definitely can get in the way of that togetherness time.
Just how much should babies sleep? According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) states, there is a recommended amount of sleep (including naps) for children per age/stage, and it is as follows:
- Infants (4 months to 12 months) - 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours
- Children (1 to 2 years old) - 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours
- Children (3 to 5 years old) - 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours
- Children (6 to 12 years old) - 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours
Moral of the story? Don't stress if your child wakes up several times throughout the night. It might not be a bad thing, after all.