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Baby sleep is something the sleep specialist in me geeks out over everyday! Baby’s have a fascinating sleep cycle that helps them develop and grow at a crazy rate. Think about how much your baby accomplishes in their first year of life! Would you believe that every milestone, tooth and giggle is supported by their sleep? Baby sleep is even more important than adult sleep, in fact it’s so important that they require close to 18 hours of sleep a day. During baby sleep, their body releases their growth hormone, their protein production increases to help with body healing and growth, it’s the time their brain stores the memories from throughout the day, it’s even the time for tooth moving and growth! That’s right, sleep is when teething rears its ugly head!
Adults' sleep cycles consist of only 20-25% REM (Rolling Eye Movement) or active sleep while a baby’s sleep cycles are 50% active sleep! Active sleep is the time when your baby is dreaming and moving around, they make sucking movements, fine twitches, grimaces, smiles, vocalizations, and even large arm and leg movements. Active sleep is the period when you can hear them call out for help, but you go in their room to find them asleep or worse, you wake them when you rush in to respond! Active sleep for adults looks completely different, you’re just as easy to wake up from this sleep state, but your body is completely relaxed and hardly moves at all. This can make your baby’s sleep seem very confusing.
Your baby has a very limited way to communicate and hasn’t fully formed an imagination yet, so chances are, those dreams are probably pretty mundane. They’re dreaming about wanting you to hold them, feed them, or maybe they have huge aspirations of finally being able to reach for their dream pacifier that’s just out of reach! So in their dream they’re communicating by crying, one of their few verbal communications, and the next thing they know you are picking them up and waking them up. It’s not your fault, you’re responding to their cues! As your baby gets older, begin responding to their calls for help by pausing first. Wait to see if it was a real cry for help, then respond if necessary.