First year of sleep expectations

Updated Aug 01, 2022
First year of sleep

“In like a lion, out like a lamb.” It's a saying often used to describe the weather in March. But it’s also an apt description of a baby's sleep patterns over the first year. Expect your baby’s sleep to be a bit wild during the newborn period — i.e., irregular sleep times and durations. By their first birthday, however, your baby’s sleep will have calmed down, becoming more predictable with fewer sleep disruptions.


IN THIS ARTICLE:

Sleep patterns in the first year

Your baby’s sleep schedule in the first year

Your baby’s first year sleep regressions

First year sleep FAQ


Here’s a quick snapshot of what to expect during the first year. 

[Note: for children who were born early, we go by their adjusted age for sleep development.]

We’ll be honest: newborn sleep is best described as chaotic. Day sleep can range from micro naps of 10 minutes to several hours long. Bedtime will be inconsistent, and you’ll need to attend to their needs throughout the night.

We promise your baby’s not trying to be difficult; their biological sleep processes just aren’t fully formed yet. Their circadian system, aka the internal clock (which governs sleep-wake rhythms), is underdeveloped and will progressively mature over the next few months

Don’t expect your baby to be ready for an early bedtime quite yet. In fact, your baby’s days and nights might be reversed at first. If so, don’t panic. Day/night confusion (when a baby sleeps more during the day than at night) is common but should resolve after the first few weeks. 

Good news! Before you know it, sleep will become more regular, though not quite predictable. By 12 weeks old, your baby will produce enough melatonin to help regulate the timing of bedtime. That means you can expect a fairly regular (and earlier) bedtime to emerge. 

Sleep cycles also mature at around 3 months, giving your baby sleep cycles similar to an adult, rather than a newborn. Don’t be alarmed if your little one suddenly starts waking more during the night. This maturation can lead to changes in sleep patterns, which is often referred to as the “4 month sleep regression.”

This is a great time to institute a regular bedtime and nap routine if you haven’t already. Consistent routines are great for helping babies transition from playtime and cue that it is time to sleep. 

Craving more predictability? You’ll start to get it during this timeframe, now that internal sleep processes have matured and sleep periods have lengthened.  

That said, there’s still one hitch. While many babies still need a third nap of the day, it won’t always happen. This often results in parents having to choose between a too-early bedtime or a very overtired child. Most babies drop their third nap by 8 months (or are, at least, in the midst of the 3 to 2 nap transition).  

Don’t be discouraged if you’re attending to your baby once or twice a night. It’s still common for babies to continue to need some assistance during the night. 

That unicorn — predictable baby sleep — arrives for many by this age. Most babies are reliably on a 2-nap schedule which can make it much easier to schedule activities outside of the home. More good news: expect fewer calls for help during the night. Research shows that babies will continue to consolidate night sleep until 12 months of age. 

While the schedule part may get easier, babies are also becoming more mobile during this stage. Your baby may be crawling, pulling up to stand, and/or walking. These developmental milestones are so exciting! Yet, they can impact sleep too. 

It’s a lot easier to lay your baby down to sleep if they aren’t constantly popping up to practice their cruising in the crib. If this is a challenge, ensure your baby has plenty of practice time during awake periods. 

You’ll also want to make sure that your baby is sufficiently tired for bedtime. An awake period that is too short or too long can make bedtime more difficult too. Luckily, our SweetSpot® sleep predictor can help parents take the guesswork out of wake windows.

Get 15% off towards better sleep with Huckleberry

Skip all the contradictory advice online and the lengthy books about sleep. Simplify your life and choose Huckleberry's Premium membership for a full analysis of your baby's sleep and a customized plan. Our week-by-week guidance is personalized for your individual family's goals as well as your parenting style. Like most parents, we like maximizing cuddles and minimizing tears.

Editor’s note:

The recommendations listed below represent the average amount of sleep typically needed at this age. However, please note there is a range of normal as some children have lower or higher sleep needs. Your child’s schedule may vary, and that is normal.

In general, expect your newborn to sleep a lot (an average of 16 - 17 hours of sleep in a 24-hr period). The main drivers of sleep at this stage are homeostatic sleep pressure and hunger. We find that most babies can only stay awake for 30 minutes - 2 hours before needing to sleep again. That means sleep periods will be short and frequent.

We don’t recommend trying to put your newborn on a rigid schedule. With that in mind, you can view a sample 1 month schedule here, and see what a 2 month schedule might look like here.

Morning rise8:00 AM
1st nap9:15 AM - 10:15 AM (1 hour nap); 1.25 hours of awake time before 1st nap
2nd nap11:30 AM - 12:45 PM (1.25 hour nap); 1.25 hours of awake time before 2nd nap
3rd nap2:00 PM - 3:15 PM (1.25 hour nap); 1.25 hours of awake time before 3rd nap
4th nap4:30 PM - 5:45 PM (1.25 hour nap); 1.25 hours of awake time before 4th nap
5th nap7:15 PM - 7:45 PM (30 minute nap); 1.5 hours of awake time before 5th nap
Get ready for bed9:00 PM
Asleep9:30 PM;1.75 hours of awake time before bed

We recommend that babies get at least 14.5 - 15 hours of sleep during a 24-hr period at this age, but keep in mind that sleep ranges are just averages. They shouldn’t be viewed as a prescription for your child, but rather a general guide. 

Wake windows (the amount of time a child will comfortably be able to stay awake before that homeostatic pressure helps drive a baby to sleep) will lengthen throughout childhood. We suggest 1 - 2 hours of awake time for 3 month olds; 1.5 - 2.5 hours of awake time for 4 month olds, and 2 - 2.5 hours for most 5 month olds.

Curious about sleep training? Some babies are able to fall asleep on their own at this age (i.e. setting them down awake in their sleep space at bedtime rather than rocking or feeding to sleep), but not all babies are able to do so consistently. We encourage parents to give their babies the opportunity to learn to self-soothe at bedtime if (1) the parents want to, (2) the baby is in good health, (3) the infant has been fed, cuddled and is dry, and (4) it doesn’t bring stress to the family. 

Take a look at our sample schedules for 3 month olds, 4 month olds, and 5 month olds

Wake time6:30 AM
1st nap8:00 AM - 9:15 AM (1.25 hours); 1.5 hours of awake time
2nd nap11:00 AM - 12:00 PM (1 hour); 1.75 hours of awake time
3rd nap1:45 PM - 2:45 PM (1 hour); 1.75 hours of awake time
4th nap4:45 PM - 5:15 PM (30 minutes); 2 hours of awake time
Get ready for bed6:45 PM
Asleep7:15 PM; 2 hours of awake time before bedtime)

Our guidance for this age: we find that most babies need at least 14 hours of sleep in a 24-hr period. In our experience, we find that 2 - 3 hour wake windows work best for 6 month olds, while 2.5 - 3.5 hour wake windows are the best fit for 7 and 8 month olds. 

True, we want parents to pay attention to wake windows. But that won’t be the whole story going forward. After the rapid development of the circadian rhythm in the first 6 months, your baby’s sleep-wake cycle will now be governed in large part by their internal clock too, rather than primarily by sleep pressure. 

Caregivers who want a “by the clock” schedule (meaning naps and bedtime are determined by the time on the clock rather than almost solely on wake windows), can give it a try now (though you may have more success once your baby is taking just 2 naps per day). 

If you’re interested in sleep training to improve sleep (which we understand can be a sensitive subject, and we support parents either way), we recommend working on bedtime first. Research shows that babies who self-soothe at bedtime tend to call out for parental help less often during the night, and sleep for longer periods. However, changing sleep patterns at night and during the day (all at once) can lead to severe overtiredness — which can make it harder to make progress. 

Want to see what your infant’s day might look like? View our example schedules for 6 months, 7 months, and 8 months

Morning rise 7:00 AM
1st nap 9:15 AM - 10:15 AM (1 hour nap); 2.25 hours of awake time before 1st nap
2nd nap12:45 PM - 1:45 PM (1 hour nap); 2.5 hours of awake time before 2nd nap
3rd nap4:15 PM - 4:45 PM (30 minute nap); 2.5 hours of awake time before 3rd nap
Get ready for sleep7:00 PM
Asleep7:30 PM; 2.75 hours of awake time before bed

Overall sleep needs might decrease a bit by this age. We recommend aiming for at least 13 - 14 hours of sleep in a 24-hr period depending on the baby’s age (9 month olds tend to need about an hour more of sleep per day than a 12 month old). 

At the same time, wake windows will increase. We find that 2.5 - 3.5 hour wake windows are ideal for most 9 months olds, while 10 - 12 month olds do well with awake periods between 3 - 4 hours long.

See what your baby’s schedule could look like at 9 months, 10 months, 11 months, and 12 months

Morning rise6:30 AM
1st nap9:45 AM - 10:45 AM (1 hour nap); 3.25 hours of awake time before 1st nap
2nd nap2:15 PM - 3:15 PM (1 hour nap); 3.5 hours of awake time before 2nd nap
Get ready for sleep6:30 PM
Asleep7:15 PM; 4 hours of awake time before bed

We define a “sleep regression” as an abrupt decline in a child’s sleep patterns. We’re usually talking about babies fighting naps, an increase in night waking, and/or new difficulties at bedtime. 

While sleep can regress for a variety of reasons at any age, we do tend to see sleep regress within certain age groups. You can learn about the 4 month regression which impacts babies between 3 - 4 months old, and the 8 month regression, which commonly affects infant sleep between 7 - 10 months old. 

First year sleep FAQ

Q: Is the “1 year sleep regression'' a thing?

A:

We’re unaware of any scientific evidence that supports the existence of a 1 year regression. However, we do often find that 12 month old babies struggle with naps. These struggles may indicate that a baby needs a schedule adjustment (i.e., longer wake windows between naps).

Q: What should I expect in my baby’s first year of sleep?

A:

Expect sleep to change dramatically over the first year. Newborn babies will take many naps and wake frequently at night. By their first birthday, most babies will take only 2 naps per day and be able to sleep through the night without much parental assistance.

Q: How much sleep is enough for my baby in the first year?

A:

This depends on the age of your baby and their individual sleep needs. A younger baby will need more sleep than a 1 year old. For example, a newborn may need 17 hours of sleep in a 24-hr period, while a 12 month old may need only 13 hours of sleep.

Q: Why is the first year of sleep so important?

A:

Sleep plays a critical role in learning, memory, emotional health, and cognitive development. Setting the foundation for healthy sleep habits can help ensure your child stays well rested throughout childhood. This in turn can help caregivers get sufficient rest too!

Q: How long until babies fall into deep sleep?

A:

This depends on the age of the baby. By 6 months of age, “an infant’s sleep architecture closely resembles that of an adult” (El Shakankiry, 2011). The first third of the baby’s sleep is mostly spent in deep sleep.

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.