Some encouraging news for parents of newborns. Your baby will most likely be able to sleep through the night within a few months of being born, meaning that if sleep patterns can be synchronized, there is hope that your constant yawning during daytime hours will be short-lived. Researchers from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand reported on a study in the journal Pediatrics that by the age of 5 months over 50% of all infants are following their parents sleeping times, and sleeping right through the night.

The investigators explain that reaching non-stop sleep does not take long. Coinciding with the parents’ sleeping schedule may take a bit longer.

Jacqueline M. T. Henderson, PhD. and team set out to find out how long it took infants to consolidate their self-regulated nocturnal sleep during their first 12 months of life.

  • Criterion 1 aimed to find out when regular sleep through the night from midnight to 5am occurred – or when the baby managed to regularly sleep 5 hours non-stop
  • Criterion 2 when 10pm to 6am sleep occured – or when the baby managed to regularly sleep 8 hours non-stop
  • Criterion 3 when baby and parents’ sleep patterns were fully synchronized.

The study involved parents of 75 full-term healthy infants with typical development. The parents filled in a sleep diary for 6 days per month for a total of 12 months. Videosmnography – a video sleep study – was used to enhance the accuracy of the parents’ report.

The researchers found that:

  • The main increase in the length of self-regulated sleep took place from the end of the first month to the end of the fourth (504 minutes)
  • Most babies reached Criterion 1 at 2 months
  • There was a 50% probability that babies reached Criteria 1 and 2 at 3 months.
  • A significant number of babies reached Criterion 3 at 4 months. 50% of babies reached Criterion 3 at 5 months.

The authors concluded:

The most rapid consolidation in infant sleep regulation occurs in the first 4 months. Most infants are sleeping through the night at 2 and 3 months, regardless of the criterion used. The most developmentally and socially valid criterion for sleeping through is from 22:00 to 0:600 hours. At 5 months, more than half of infants are sleeping concurrently with their parents.

By the age of 12 months, 87% of the babies were sleeping through five hours, 86% eight hours and 73% from 22.00 hours to 06.00 hours.

“Sleeping Through the Night: The Consolidation of Self-regulated Sleep Across the First Year of Life”
Jacqueline M. T. Henderson, PhD, Karyn G. France, PhD, Joseph L. Owens, PhD, Neville M. Blampied, MSc
PEDIATRICS (doi:10.1542/peds.2010-0976)

Written by Christian Nordqvist