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Night, night... ZZZZleep... tight

“Are they a good sleeper?” “Do you get enough sleep?” These are questions normally asked when your baby is born. This is not that strange as most new parents often don’t get enough sleep. But, does it have to be that way?

Provokingly enough, some parents’ babies sleep throughout most nights and have done so since the day they were born. Then there are those that have been privileged with babies that sometimes sleep, but perhaps only for short intervals when being carried, or when lying next to us, or when being rocked in a pram, or when being driven in the car. The carrying, rocking and car driving suggests that we do not sleep that well ourselves. If ever…

And it doesn’t matter how much we love our little bundles and do everything and anything to make them feel secure and content, we cannot ignore that a good night’s sleep for mum and dad is as important to us as to our little ones. For instance, consider this, sleep deprivation was one of KGB’s favourites among methods of torture, and the Japanese army used it on prisoners of war during the Second World War. Why? Well, lack of sleep for long periods can even get the most well-trained commando soldier to go berserk. No wonder that parents of little ones desperately long for a whole night’s sleep and wishes and dreams that if baby wakes up they will go back to sleep again, by themselves.

Why do we then need to sleep? If we don’t get enough sleep we will take ill. It is during our sleep that our bodies have time to recover both physically and mentally. Lack of sleep makes both adults and children of all ages tired and irritated. For children, sleep is particularly important, as it is during their sleep that they produce their growth hormones and their defensive immune system is being developed. Furthermore, it is also during their sleep that the child works out their sensorial impressions.

Delta Sleep is our deep, dreamless sleep when we breathe deeply and when our heart beats slower. A person who is in a deep Delta Sleep can be very difficult to wake up. 80% of an adult’s sleep consists of Delta Sleep.

Paradoxical Sleep is our light sleep and consists of approximately 20% of an adult’s sleep. This type of sleep is also called REM-sleep due to the rapid eye movements that are characteristic for this stage of sleep. Research suggests that during Paradoxical Sleep a form of “mental training” takes place – a must for the brain to develop. The younger a person is, the longer the Paradoxical Sleep is. We have cycles of sleep every night where Delta Sleep and Paradoxical Sleep replace each other. When switching from Delta Sleep to Paradoxical Sleep, and during Paradoxical Sleep, we sleep lightly and are easy to wake up. These “critical periods” occur approximately four to five times per night.

Many of us adults have the tendency to “fall asleep as a log”. As soon as our heads touch the pillow we often enter our deep Delta Sleep directly and are hard to wake up. Infants do not. The first 20 minutes of their sleep consists of the light Paradoxical Sleep, which means that the baby wakes up easily. The slightest noise will awake the child, which is important knowledge for the parents to keep in mind. Children need the adult’s help and presence to gradually go into Delta Sleep. If your child has snoozed off in your arms it may be an idea to wait for 20 minutes before you transfer your baby into their bed. The chance is then greater that the baby remains asleep. As children grow older their ability to enter Delta Sleep directly increase. However, when that happens is individual. Research suggests that some infants are able to enter Delta Sleep at three months old.

Newborn babies sleep between 18 to 19 hours per day divided into short periods. Their Delta Sleep is followed by the lighter Paradoxical Sleep and by the end of each sleeping period the child is half awake. On average the baby has a light sleeping period once per hour, which often is light enough to awake the baby. Some children calm down and go back to sleep while others need some help.

At four weeks old the baby requires less sleep during the day than during their first month and is able to sleep longer periods at night. Towards the end of the third month, some children have a 6-hour uninterrupted night sleep.

At seven months old most babies begin to sleep deeper at night and by the age of one-year-old most children need approximately 14 hours of sleep per day.

8 Zzzleep Tight Tips:

1. Routines, routines, routines!!! Boring? Perhaps, but routines are extremely important. When you all have gotten used to the routines and they have become part of your day, you can abandon them now and then!

2. Soft massage. Lavender oil is mild and relaxing and can be found in most health shops. Warm a little oil in your hands, and massage gently into your child’s calves and feet – it provides closeness and is both nice and conducive to sleep.

3. Babysitter. Some children fall asleep very well in their babysitter but immediately wake up when being transferred to their bed. Let your child sleep for a little while in the babysitter before moving them, however, remember to recline the sitter.

4. Nightlight. A soft nightlight gives comfort to many children and helps them settle for a good night’s sleep.

5. Cradle. Today you can buy specially made fixtures that can be attached to the legs of your child’s cot which gives the cot a gentle, soothing, calming and comforting rocking movement.

6. Swaddling. Swaddling is a technique that has been used for many years, and is still being used in many cultures. Infants can feel confused and disorientated after being born having had mum’s comfortable and secure tummy around them. A soft material wrapped gently around your baby may therefore make them feel content, which may stop them from waking up when making unwilling sudden movements in their sleep.

7. Choice of colours. It has been suggested that some colours are more calming than others. Some suggest that apricot and pinkish/red gives a calming effect. Others suggest that the colour blue brings a soothing and conducive to sleep effect, while the shui-experts recommends bedrooms to be light green.

8. Familiar noises. Many parents claim that their children comfortably fall asleep if they hear familiar noises, such as murmurs, the radio, the washing machine, or the vacuum cleaner. So, perhaps it is an idea to leave your child’s bedroom door open.


Carola is the founder and principal of Little Gems Montessori. If you would like to know more about sleep patterns, get in touch! Telephone: 22 351319. Email:


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