Baby REM Sleep In Infants & Newborn Babies

Baby REM Sleep In Infants & Newborn Babies

Most new parents have a million questions about newborn sleep: how much, how often, and even how to get your newborn to sleep well through the night. However, sometimes when victory strikes and baby falls asleep, you may notice that they may seem restless and their eyes move back and forth. Rest assured, this is not a cause for concern. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in babies is normal, and will continue for the rest of life. The four cycles of sleep are wake, light sleep, N1, N2, N3, and REM. Cycles N1, N2, and N3 are known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) cycles. During cycles N1 and N2 babies and people can be woken up easier and the third stage is the deepest sleep. EM sleep is an active sleep cycle, similar to a waking stage. Each cycle takes about 90 to 110 minutes.

Newborns may only experience two of the four sleep cycles, with about 50% of their sleep time spent in REM sleep. Infants 3 months and older can experience all 4 sleep cycles, including REM. Newborns sleep up to 18 hours per day, meaning they experience up to 9 hours of REM sleep daily. Adults on the other hand only spend about 20% of each night’s sleep in REM sleep. The commonality between the two is the importance of sleep for adults and babies. Keep reading to learn more about REM sleep in newborn, babies, and infants. 

What Is Rapid Eye Movement (REM)  Sleep For Babies?

REM sleep is one of the four cycles of sleep. REM sleep can cause babies to twitch or jerk arms and legs. It can also cause eyes to move under closed eyelids. You may also notice irregular breathing that may stop for 5-10 seconds. The breathing should then return to regular breathing, but the cycle can repeat causing irregular breathing again. During irregular breathing the baby's skin color should not change. 

The four cycles of sleep are N1, N2, N3, and REM. The REM stage is similar to a waking stage. N3 is the deepest cycle of sleep. Newborns up to 3 months of age may only experience two of the three sleep cycles, including REM sleep. Babies closer to 5 months should start to mimic the sleep cycle of adults. 

What does REM sleep in infants look like?

REM sleep is an active sleep stage in which your baby’s eyes can move underneath the eyelids. Your baby may also twitch or jerk arms and legs. REM sleep is an important part of a baby’s development. During REM sleep neural connections go into overdrive. Babies spend much of their time sleeping, with 50% of the time being in REM sleep to support their cognitive development. 

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Is REM deep sleep?

Newborns essentially have two stages of sleep. REM and NREM (N1, N2, and N3). N3 is a deep sleep cycle, when it’s hard to wake a baby or adult during this stage. REM sleep is an active sleep; it’s easy to wake a baby or adult during REM sleep. During REM sleep more intense dreams can take place since the brain is more active. 

When do babies stop REM sleep?

At around 3-6 months, your baby will ideally be sleeping for longer stretches of time. However, they are probably still waking up at least once a night. This can mean they are experiencing fewer hours of REM sleep and longer periods of deep sleep – similar to the same sleep stages as adults. Our Dream Weighted Swaddle and Sleep Sack features CoverCalm® Technology that evenly distributes weight from your baby’s shoulders to toes to naturally reduce stress and increase relaxation. Proven to help babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, you can help your baby get the sleep they need. 

When Do Infants Go Into REM?

Most infants fall into REM sleep immediately upon falling asleep. This varies from adults who don’t experience REM sleep until about 90 minutes of sleep. 

Why do babies spend so much time in REM sleep?

Babies need lots of sleep to promote their development. During REM sleep neural connections go into overdrive. Therefore, REM can promote development. As your baby transitions from the womb to the world, awareness of sights, sounds, smells, and physical sensations grow. With an active brain, babies need plenty of fuel to soak everything in. Ensuring your baby gets adequate sleep for proper development is critical. 

Do babies make noise in REM sleep?

It’s possible that in your baby’s active stage of sleep, otherwise known as REM sleep. they can make noise or experience body movements. Sounds can include a whimper, gurgles, even a giggle or two!

Is REM sleep important for newborns?

Even though it’s known as active sleep, the benefits of REM sleep are plentiful. Studies show that REM sleep helps to support both long and short-term memory, as well as overall learning.

How much time do newborns spend in REM sleep?

Newborns spend about 50% of their daily sleep time in REM sleep, as they may only experience two of the four sleep cycles. At about 4 months of age, babies can experience all 4 sleep cycles. 

How do I know if my newborn is in REM sleep?

Unlike adults, babies usually enter REM sleep immediately after falling asleep and spend about half of their daily sleep time in REM. Here are some signs your newborn is enjoying some REM sleep. 

  • Body movements: Twitching or jerking of the legs can be a sign of REM sleep. You may also notice baby’s eyes moving under closed eyelids. 
  • Irregular breathing: Babies can experience irregular breathing followed by non-breathing for about 5-10 seconds. 
  • Sounds: Babies may grunt or cry briefly. 

Remember, during the REM cycle, babies brains’ are actively processing information. Even if they’re moving or making noises, they’re probably still asleep, but it’s likely easy to wake them.

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In June 2022, the AAP updated its sleep guidelines and is currently not recommending weighted sleep solutions. You can read the full report here. Please note that this is not a recall. Dreamland Baby is in ongoing dialogue with the AAP regarding its stance on weighted sleepwear and hopes it will result in the statement being retracted.