How Much Sleep Do Newborns Need and When Each Day and Night?

Patterns Include Disturbed Sleep at Night and Daytime Sleeping with Naps

Newborn babies normally sleep day and night to meet sleep needs
Newborn babies normally sleep day and night to meet sleep needs. Getty Images

If you are a proud new parent, you are likely a little sleep-deprived yourself and you may be wondering: How much sleep do newborn babies normally need? When should this sleep be occurring during the day and night? When do babies start to sleep through the night? Discover the answer to these questions and put any worries to rest.

Newborn Sleep Need Change Gradually Early in Life

Newborns actually sleep quite a bit, but the problem (at least for parents) is that they have not developed a circadian rhythm, and their sleep is very fragmented.

As a result, their sleep periods are brief and these are scattered throughout the day and night. This pattern can persist for at least 2 to 3 months.

The individual sleep periods of newborns typically last from 2 to 5 hours. Between these sleep periods may be a period of wakefulness that lasts from 1 to 3 hours. This chaotic pattern can feel quite disruptive to normal sleep for adults! During a 24-hour period, a newborn may sleep from 10 to 18 hours, with the average being close to 15 hours. Compared to adults who usually sleep 7 to 9 hours, this is quite a lot of sleep. Both the sleep of newborns (and their caregivers) is often disrupted by a desire for feeding.

Fortunately, by the age of 8 to 12 weeks, these rather short sleep periods become more consolidated and more of a newborn's sleep begins to occur at nighttime. The sleep of children continues to evolve throughout their development until it approaches that which exists in adults, usually by late adolescence.

How to Help Your Baby to Sleep Normally

Give your newborn baby a comfortable place to sleep, with reduced lighting and noise and a comfortable temperature. Babies should sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Avoid placing excessive blankets, toys, or other items that may smother the infant at night in the sleep space.

Don't create an environment that is too warm; it if is comfortable to you, it will be comfortable to the baby. Also, it is important to avoid smoking around babies.

Most infants will benefit from a consistent bedtime routine, often with a feeding preceding sleep onset. Try to place the child into their bassinet or crib as they fall asleep but prior to actually sleeping. This will help to reduce the risk of your newborn developing behavioral insomnia of childhood.

If your child struggles to sleep, or you are concerned about their sleep needs, speak with your pediatrician about your concerns to identify the best ways to help everyone in the household to sleep better.


Durmer, JS et al. "Pediatric Sleep Medicine". Continuum. Neurol 2007; 13(3):153-200.

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