By six to 12 months of age, you will have noticed that your baby is more alert and able to stay awake longer between sleeps during the day.
Your baby will start to sleep for longer periods of time and can go longer periods between feeds. In other words, their circadian rhythm (the natural signals that tell us when to eat and sleep) is now well established.
Sleep cycles and REM sleep
Babies have shorter sleep cycles than adults and spend more time in light REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. At six to 12 months of age, their sleep cycle ranges from 40 to 60 minutes, compared to 90 minutes in adults.
REM sleep is linked with the processing and storing of information and to memory and learning. It is believed that babies need to spend more time in REM sleep than adults. This is because they are practicing their new learnings and are wiring the pathways in their brains.
Babies who are learning to crawl may often be seen crawling around the cot whilst asleep. Babies who are learning to put things in the mouth may be seen munching on their fingers while in REM sleep. Babies learning language may be making sounds, saying words or babbling. Babies may even grizzle, grimace and smile in REM sleep. When your baby learns to stand he may stand up at the side of the cot but may not know how to sit down again.
Non-REM deeper sleep is restorative and during non-REM sleep, which becomes dominant over time, the consolidation of new skills and brain connections occurs.
What you can you do to help
- Tune in to your baby’s tired signs. By six to 12 months of age they are very busy and prefer to be doing things instead of sleeping.
- Try and be consistent as this will help promote a sense of security with the familiar things that you do. Your baby will memorise the sequence of events that you repeat every day.
- Your baby may wake when they are practicing skills during REM sleep. Help them to resettle back to sleep if needed.
Want to know more?
Pregnancy, birth and baby – Baby development
Raising Children Network – Babies development