A baby's sleep is different from normal adult sleep in many ways. Since infants are born “unfinished” and grow up very quickly, they process things in their sleep that they experience during the day. For this reason, infants sleep very differently to adults: in shorter phases and with fewer completed sleep cycles, after which they usually wake up briefly.
Babies slumber in a kind of maturation sleep
As with adults, infants go through so-called REM and non-REM sleep phases. The difference lies in the fact that the sleep phases of infants and adults differ in percentage terms. While you spend most of your time in deep sleep and only sleep a quarter of your bedtime in dream sleep, deep and dream sleep are balanced in your newborn. This is because your baby's brain has to develop first. Since many "maturation processes" are not yet complete, your baby's sleep phases will also change over the course of the first few years.
Your child first falls into a superficial, light sleep and only then into deep sleep. Your baby is still "active" during light sleep. It may be smiling, making noises, or crying. In the meantime, your child processes the impressions experienced during the waking phase in this "maturation sleep". After a completed cycle, your little one will mostly wake up, either because they're hungry or because their nappy is full.
Dealing with the waking phases properly
Overall, your baby goes through several superficial sleep phases, which later turn into deep sleep phases. A single, completed sleep cycle lasts an estimated 50 minutes and is repeated three to four times. Since your darling is easily awoken between the individual sleep phases, you should be prepared to wake up several times during the night.
Often your child wakes up in the light sleep phases because it’s too cold or too loud in the room. So you can help your child to continue sleeping with a warm sleeping bag and a quiet sleeping environment. Some babies get tired again while feeding, others need intensive cuddles. For some babies, it’s calming to simply hear their parents' voice or feel a gentle touch. Ultimately, in the first few months, you simply have to try out how your little one can best fall asleep again between the individual phases of sleep.
Your favourite sleep phases shift with age
The older your baby finally gets, the more the deep sleep phases predominate in percentage terms. Then you will notice that your child is lying very calmly and that even loud noises like the noise of the vacuum cleaner cannot wake them up so easily. This is a clear sign that children experience more deep sleep phases while sleeping through the night and consequently startle less easily.