Apr 26, 2024
Apr 26, 2024
April 26, 2024

How much sleep do you get with a newborn

Managing your own sleep with a newborn can be like walking a tightrope very sleepily, trying to strike the right balance between getting things done and getting some sleep yourself. In the early stages, baby sleep is plentiful. But babies aren't necessarily sleeping when you want them to, which doesn't allow you, the parent, to get much sleep.Knowing what to expect when it comes to newborn sleep patterns can help you better prepare and hopefully get the rest you need, whether through naps or nighttime sleep. 
Megan N. Freeland, PharmD
Written by
Megan N. Freeland, PharmD
Content Writer
Jess Ellsworth
Medically reviewed by
Jess Ellsworth
Certified Sleep Consultant

Understanding baby sleep and sleeping patterns of a newborn

Baby sleep is essential for babies' healthy growth and development. But their sleep patterns are erratic, at best.

How much sleep do newborns need?

For the first several months of their lives, the vast majority of a newborn's day is spent in slumber. It’s not until around 1 to 2 years of age — or even later —  that kids spend more than half of a 24-hour period awake!

Newborn babies get about 16-17 hours of sleep (or even more) in a 24-hour period. But the exact amount of sleep time can vary from one baby to the next. Some newborns sleep as little as 11 hours, while others can sleep up to 22.

In any cases, newborns sleep at various times throughout the day because their circadian rhythm — or sleep-wake cycles — takes time to mature. This means they don't have an internal "clock" that lets them know when it's day and time to stay awake, or when it's night and time to go to sleep.

How long should newborns sleep at one time?

Newborn babies’ tummies are quite small, which means they need to eat about every 2-3 hours, and possibly more often in some cases. So although they need lots of sleep, their sleep is often interrupted by their more pressing need to eat. So newborns usually aren’t able to sleep for long stretches in the beginning of their lives, especially breastfed babies who may wake to eat more often.

And even if your newborn seems to want to sleep longer than 3-4 hours, your child’s pediatrician will likely advise you to wake them at the 4 hour mark until your baby’s weight is good enough to allow them to sleep longer. Exactly when you’ll cross this milestone depends on your baby and their health status. 

While you might be familiar with adult sleep stages, your newborn’s sleep stages are different. They spend about half their time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, or active sleep. The other half is spent in non-REM sleep, or quiet sleep where your baby is sleeping deeply and doesn’t move much. A newborn sleep cycle is often between 20 and 50 minutes long and includes the following sleep stages:

  • Stage 1 - Drowsiness and falling asleep

  • Stage 2 - REM sleep (active sleep)

  • Stage 3 - Light sleep

  • Stages 4 and 5 - Deep sleep (non-REM sleep or quiet sleep)

Can newborns sleep too much?

In the first few days, it can be normal to wonder whether your newborn is sleeping too much or whether they're awake often enough, especially if their eyes are only open a few times per day.  Although many newborns get 16-17 hours of sleep, some can sleep as much as 18-19 hours in a 24-hour period. 

A newborn baby can certainly sleep too much if they aren’t awake long enough to eat as much as they should. Remember, newborns need to eat very often, and if they don’t wake up on their own, your pediatrician may advise waking them up from naps or nighttime sleep at least every 3-4 hours to eat until they are gaining enough weight to be able to sleep longer stretches.

You can always consult your pediatrician or a Summer Health pediatrician, who’s just a text away, if you’re concerned about how much your newborn is sleeping.

How often will a newborn sleep?

Newborns get about half of their total sleep during the day as naps and half as nighttime sleep. But as you've learned, these periods of sleep are sporadic. Since a newborn sleep cycle lasts up to 50 minutes — more like the length of an adult nap — newborns will bounce back and forth between asleep and awake quite often.

You'll notice newborns will often fall asleep while, or right after, eating.

How much do infants sleep?

After the newborn stage, predictable sleep habits are still a work in progress, but babies start to become capable of more clear sleep patterns. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, infants from 4 to 12 months get about 12 to 16 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Tips for managing your own sleep schedule with a newborn

It can feel virtually impossible to get the amount of sleep you need to function well when you have a newborn. And because newborns don’t operate on sleep schedules or clear sleep patterns, building a sleep schedule for yourself might not be feasible in the early days either. Fortunately, there are ways you can be intentional about getting the naps and nighttime sleep you need to parent your baby.

Strategies for getting naps during the day, around your newborn's sleep schedule

Whether or not you’re usually a napper, you’ll likely need to get some of your daily sleep needs met through naps for the first few months of your child’s life. Here are a few strategies for getting more nap time during the day:

  • Nap when your baby naps, at least some of the time. The age-old advice “sleep when the baby sleeps” might spark eye rolls, but there’s some practicality to it. Your newborn will wake up and fall asleep several times per day in the early days. If you can manage to catch some shut eye during a few of those naps, it may not solve all your sleep problems, but may give you the boost you need to make it through the next several hours.

  • Enlist the help of your support system to hang out with your baby for a few hours. If you have another helping hand, you might be able to not only take a nap when the baby falls asleep, but possibly extend your nap a little longer, even after your little one is awake.

Strategies for getting nighttime sleep, around your newborn's sleep schedule

Getting more nighttime sleep can be trickier, and can feel more desirable since this is where we as adults get our most restorative sleep.

  • Take turns on night shifts with another adult. If you and a member of your support system — a spouse, coparent, family member, friend, or hired help — can tag team nighttime wake-ups, feeding, and getting the baby back to sleep, you can hopefully enjoy a bit more uninterrupted sleep.

  • Match your baby’s bedtime. In the first several months, and over time as your baby begins to sleep longer, their longest uninterrupted sleep stretch will often happen right after bedtime. This means although you may be a night owl, or be used to staying up later, you may want to match your baby’s bedtime. That way, no matter how often they wake during the night, you’ll have gotten the longest stretch of sleep possible.

  • Practice safe sleep habits with your newborn. When you can rest assured that your baby is safe, you can get more sleep. Safe sleeping can help you and baby get better rest.

Dealing with fatigue as a new parent

One of the most reliable ways to deal with fatigue as a new parent is to get help from other adults so that you can make time to get your own rest. If you have people around you who have offered to help with caring for your baby, prioritize asking for help that allows you to get more sleep.

If you have a spouse, partner, or coparent, discuss ways you can share tasks and duties involving in caring for your baby so that each of you can get rest and preserve energy. Including bottles in your baby’s eating routine, even if they are breastfed, might be useful since it can free you up to share responsibility of feeding your baby while you take more opportunities to rest.

When to expect baby sleeping patterns to change

When does a newborn sleep through the night?

A baby is said to "sleep through the night" when they’re sleeping for stretches of 5 to 6 hours. Unfortunately, there’s no magic “sleep through the night” switch that flips inside a baby’s brain. (Although wouldn’t that be amazing?!)

As newborns get older and their stomachs get bigger, they can eat more at one time, which means they can sleep longer because they don't need to wake up as often to eat. Eventually, as babies are able to string sleep cycles together, and learn how to fall back to sleep on their own, they eventually learn to sleep through the night.

For some babies, this starts to happen around 3 months of age, right around the time babies are no longer considered newborns. But for others, it can take longer.

If you’re a breastfeeding parent, your baby sleeping through the night might be a welcome change, but it doesn’t always mean you’ll get to sleep through the night too. In order to keep your milk supply up, you may have to wake up to pump at least once or twice in place of your baby breastfeeding at night.

How do I set up a sleep routine or bedtime routine?

Even before your baby is sleeping through the night — but especially when they are — it can be helpful to set up a sleep routine for naps and a bedtime routine. As your baby develops and becomes able to recognize patterns, these types of routines can help their brains and their bodies learn to expect sleep and learn to fall asleep on their own. 

An effective nap or bedtime routine might involve swaddling (depending on your baby’s development), a dark room, and white noise, as well as other simple strategies.

If you’d like specific advice about your newborn’s sleep habits, text a Summer Health sleep specialist.


American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Child Sleep Duration Health Advisory.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Sleep.

Megan N. Freeland, PharmD
Content Writer
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