Is it possible that my child is a vampire? Certainly not! But why does she appear to come to life at night, while the rest of the civilized world is sleeping, and spend much of the day dozing contentedly? Day and night confusion is quite prevalent among babies, who aren’t particularly good at sleeping in general.
Why do babies have day and night confusion?
If you think about it, the “why” of day and night confusion isn’t too difficult to comprehend. Your baby has only recently emerged from the womb’s dark and snug chamber, where he had no clues to inform him the difference between night and day. His internal clock isn’t yet in sync with that of your family or the rest of the planet.
As perplexing and tiring as a nighttime-alert baby can be, this phase usually passes with time. As your child grows older and sleeps for longer periods of time, those stretches tend to coalesce more in the overnight hours to “fit” what’s going on in the family.
Do you remember the old adage about leaving sleeping newborns alone? This is mostly accurate, but if your baby takes extremely long daytime naps (for example, if she snoozes straight through feedings), the day/night separation process may be delayed. You are the best judge of your baby’s feeding schedule, so follow it.
It’s not the intention to keep her up all day; she’s still much too young for that—that’s to “remind” her that daytime naps should be shorter than nighttime sleeps. Begin gently to rouse her from her slumber after a long nap. Unwrap her, stroke her face or hands, and/or hold her upright if she’s swaddled. Talk to her, sing to her, and dangle toys once she’s awake and fed to signal that it’s wakey-wakey time.
Get up and shine! You know how the morning light signals your body to wake up? The same is true for your baby; daily doses of sunlight (weather permitting) aid in the establishment of your baby’s developing circadian rhythm (or sleep-wake cycle). It’s not just light, but stimulation; your baby should see that the fun stuff happens during the day.
Regulate Daytime Naps
When your baby is ready for a nap, don’t completely darken the room and resist the urge to keep the entire house quiet. This does not imply blasting music, nor does it imply avoiding all disruption. Do your chores, play with older kids, and go about your daily routine. The presence of normal daytime sounds emphasizes the distinction between day and night.
At night, the opposite should occur: keep the nursery dark and quiet. When your baby wakes up for feedings and diaper changes, stay quiet and calm. Avoid turning on a light (this nightlight will suffice) and keep your voice low and soothing. This is particularly important if your baby appears to want to “play” during nighttime feedings. Don’t ignore her, but do give her the impression that “it’s nighttime now…shhhh…”
Finally, keep in mind that regardless of how your baby’s sleep time is distributed—mostly during the day, mostly at night, or a combination of the two—the overall need for sleep remains constant, which is critical. A newborn requires at least 16 hours of sleep per day, out of a total of 24. That means that even if you gradually shift more sleep hours to the night, you’ll still have stretches of daytime sleep, as well as some night hours that will keep you both awake, at least in the early weeks or months. Try to remain calm and catch a few zzz’s during the day. You got this!!
If you feel you could use some help during this transition, we are here to help. Our overnight doulas can help your little one get their day and night confusion flipped around and sleep amazingly. You are only one call away from a full eight hours of restful sleep!