Once you’ve laid your little one down for a nap, carefully tip-toed out of the room and turned on the baby monitor, you can breathe a sigh of relief and officially enjoy a little “you” time.
When you go to check on your baby, however, you may notice that your baby moves a lot in sleep. Your little one may sleep like a baby but flip, wiggle and squirm like a circus performer once he or she is in the crib.
Learn why your little one does this and how you can help your baby sleep more soundly at nap time and nighttime.
- Why Your Little One Wiggles, Moves and Flips Around While They Sleep
- How You Can Help Your Baby Sleep More Soundly
Why Your Baby Moves a Lot in Sleep?
There are two main causes of why your baby moves a lot in sleep. Much of it has to do with your baby’s age and what stage of development he or she is in currently.
Babies Six Months Old or Younger
When you sleep, you may notice that you may stay in the same position all night or you may only move slightly. This is because of the REM sleep stage.
There are five different sleep stages that both infants and adults go through during sleep.
One of these sleep stages is known as rapid eye movement (REM). This sleep stage typically occurs within the first 90 minutes of falling asleep and several other times as the body cycles through the sleep stages throughout the night.
The REM sleep stage accounts for only 20 to 25 percent of an adult’s sleep but more than 50 percent of an infant’s sleep.
As part of this stage, the eyes move rapidly in various directions (hence the name). During REM sleep, our brains are almost as active as when we are awake.
The REM sleep stage is believed to play a big role in memory and learning, which could explain why it’s important that a baby get more REM sleep than adults.
One part of the REM sleep stage is muscle paralysis. This means that when the body is in the REM sleep stage of the sleep cycle, the body doesn’t move.
Adults who don’t experience muscle paralysis during REM sleep may sleepwalk, fight or even eat while they are sleeping.
In babies, muscle paralysis during the REM sleep stage doesn’t occur until six months of age.
Babies who are younger than six months of age may roll, move around, suck on their fingers or fists, cry, smile or frown all while being perfectly asleep. This is typical baby REM sleep, and it means that your baby is busy learning and growing.
Babies Older Than Six Months
After six months, your baby moves a lot in sleep because he or she is learning to sleep through the night.
When you had a newborn, you may remember that he or she needed to eat every two or three hours and may have had their days and nights mixed up.
This meant that as parents, you also were awake every two or three hours and may have felt like you would never know day from night again.
Most babies don’t develop circadian rhythm, sleeping according to the time of day, until they are three months old, and most babies may still need a middle-of-the-night snack until they are six to nine months old.
After six months, your little one can sleep for five- to six-hour stretches, but he or she also has some newfound freedom in learning how to creep, roll over, sit up and crawl.
When you find your baby in a completely different position in the morning because your baby moves a lot in sleep, it is more than likely because he or she woke up in the middle of the night, moved around and went back to sleep without waking you up.
This is the ultimate goal of sleep training and helping your baby sleep at night. If your little one is doing this, you can pat yourself on the back and enjoy your nighttime slumber.
How You Can Help Your Baby Sleep More Soundly
You want more sleep.
Your family and friends definitely want you to get more sleep.
So, if your baby moves a lot while sleeping, you need to do all that you can to make sure he or she stays asleep (so you can sleep, too).
Some tips to help your little one sleep at night include:
#1 Keep the lights dimmed. Your baby needs to learn that darkness equals sleep. When you go into feed him or her, keep the lights low so that your little one can fall back to sleep quickly.
#2 During the day, open the windows, take walks and expose your little one to as much natural light as possible. Doing this will help your baby learn that the sun means he or she needs to be awake (until nap time at least).
#3 When you go into feed or comfort your baby, don’t talk and use a whisper when necessary.
#4 Establish a bedtime routine. Give your baby a bath, put on pajamas, rub on lotion, sing a song, read a book and/or rock in the rocking chair before laying him or her down each time. Do what works best for you and your family, but do it at the same time and in the same order each night.
#5 Swaddle or use a sleep sack to help prevent your baby from moving and waking himself or herself up too often.
#6 If you hear your baby move, squirm or make sounds, don’t run in and pick him or her up just yet. Give it a few minutes and wait until you are certain your baby is awake or begins to cry because he or she just might get themselves back to sleep.