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Babies Grow Up in Their Sleep - 1

It is said that babies grow up in their sleep. Babies sleeping calmly are nothing but peace in itself.

Physiologically speaking, sleeping is one of the living functions to take a rest periodically. When human beings are taken away from sleeping artificially, or not allowed to sleep, they will go insane in a few days. Children who are not well loved by their mothers have an irregular pattern of sleeping; the same is true for brain-damaged children.

It is thought that human beings spend about one-third of their life in sleeping. Children in general sleep for longer hours than adults. What kind of living power is working behind a pretty sleeping face of a baby?

Babies' Sleep, Children's Sleep

It is a well-known fact that children, infants in particular, have long sleeping hours, which become less and less as they grow up. A newborn baby sleeps for 16 to 17 hours, or about more than two thirds of a day. However, sleeping time becomes shorter as the baby grows up. The four-month-old baby sleeps for 14 to 15 hours a day, while the six- to eight-months old sleeps for 13 to 14 hours.

Meanwhile the sleeping pattern changes as well. Babies can sleep for longer hours at one time as they grow up. The one-and-a-half-month-old baby sleeps for 5 to 6 hours at one time while the four-month-old sleeps as long as 8 to 9 hours. At three to four months old of age, they start to have a night sleep and a nap during the day.

A newborn baby has an important feature. His biorhythm is strongly influenced by his mother while he is in the uterus; that rhythm is once suspended in the course of delivery and reestablished once again. Postnatal biorhythm is innate but is influenced by the mother's life patterns as well.

Some recent reports say that children's sleeping hours are getting shorter. This may be partly influenced by the life patterns of adults in general. Another possibility, of course, includes the fact that children these days grow faster.

Sleeping Pattern of the Baby

We know from our experience that there is both deep and shallow sleep. The difference between the two is whether people can wake up easily depending upon the degree of declining consciousness and activities.

Recent studies on brain waves, however, have greatly changed ideas on sleep. When we match the functional changes of the body with the brain waves during sleep, such as eye movements, disturbance of breathing and heartbeat, change of facial muscle strains, body movement, temperature, and others, we know that adults have two distinguished patterns of sleep; REM sleep and non-REM sleep1 .

Furthermore, we came to know that a newborn baby has a sleeping pattern which is categorized as none of the other patterns. Of course the third sleeping pattern goes away immediately after birth.

REM sleep is called active sleep. A baby is quiet with his eyes open slightly, but sometimes moves his body strongly or twists it slowly. He shrinks his facial muscles, smiles, frowns, and shows a sucking response. One of the unique movements is the rapid eye movement and this is particularly true for adults. Furthermore, heartbeat and respiratory rhythms are sometimes disrupted. Babies, infants, schoolchildren kick off their quilt when sleeping; when they get up in the morning, they sometimes find that they have turned themselves in their beds by 180 degrees. All of them are caused by REM sleep.

It is also said that REM sleep has to do with dreaming. The brain waves when one is awake are similar to those during REM sleep, which means that some parts of the brain are working.

Non-REM sleep is the so-called quiet sleep. A baby closes his eyes and does not move his body; he sleeps very calmly and peacefully. Of course he does not move his eyes and there is no irregularity in breathing and heartbeat.

The third pattern of sleeping we can see in a newborn baby immediately after birth that was mentioned earlier, which is neither REM nor non-REM sleeps, shows a unique pattern of brain waves. This is due to the immature cerebrum and supposed to be the remains of the sleeping pattern of embryos.

Generally speaking when an adult goes to sleep at night, it starts with non-REM sleep, and then changes to REM sleep in 70 to 100 minutes. After that there is a cycle of REM and non-REM sleeps every 90 minutes all the night.

Newborns have an irregular cycle of REM and non-REM sleeps, but roughly speaking, REM sleep accounts for about 50 percent of a day, while non-REM sleep is about 40 percent. The situation is reversed in case of the three-month-old; REM sleep is about 40 percent and non-REM sleep is about 50 percent. In case of the eight-month-old, the former is about 25 percent and the latter is about 55 percent, with non-REM sleep becoming more dominant. Non-REM sleep is about 20 percent of a day and REM sleep is about 10 percent.


1: REM sleep and non-REM sleep are two different types of sleeping patterns. REM stands for rapid eye movement.

Kobayashi, Noboru (1981). "Neruko wa Sodatsu - 1." (written in Japanese). Tokyo: Child Research Net. Retrieved Oct 9, 2003, from the World Wide Web http://www.crn.or.jp/LIBRARY/KOBY/MIRAI/cbs0107.html
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