PR-P 001: Baby sleep (or lack of). Research findings for normal 0-12 month olds.

Show Notes: Baby sleep or lack of

This is the first Practical Research Parenting podcast. I introduce myself then dive right into the research. In this episode I explore what is normal for baby sleep in the first year. This podcast is most relevant for parents who are expecting or have a young baby, but future topics will address older ages also. Here are the topics covered:

  • Body clock: When it emerges, how it is affected, and what this means.
  • Night wakings: What is normal during the first 12 months.
  • Self settling: How long it takes to learn and what disrupts it.
  • Interesting factoid
  • Take home messages including
    • Preparing yourself
    • How to decrease night-wakings by improving self-settling skills

Through this podcast you will learn:

  • That the body clock emerges around 10-12 weeks and what this means.
  • That body clocks are “set” by light, noise, activity, food, and sleep.
  • That night wakings are the norm during the first 12 months, and the ranges of normal development (see the table below).
  • That babies may self-settle from some night wakings, and that this proportion tends to increase over the first 12 months, but shows a lot of variation (again, see the table below).
  • That people are paralysed during REM sleep from about 6 months of age.
  • Some steps you can take toreduce the number of disruptivenight-wakings.
    • Prepare yourself
    • 4 Steps to improve self settling abilities during the first year.
      1. Provide opportunities for your baby to fall asleep in his or her cot.
      2. When Baby cries, wait and listen for a moment first.
      3. Try to settle Baby in his or her cot before picking up.
      4. Don’t stress if none of these steps work – your baby will get many opportunities to practice.


1 Month 3 Months 6 Months 9 Months 12 Months
Number of night wakings (Burnham et al 2002) 4.1(+/- 2.6) 2.8(+/- 1.8) 3.0(+/- 2.1) 2.8(+/- 2.5) 2.6(+/- 2.0)
Average percentage of awakenings where the baby self-soothed (Burnham et al 2002) 28% 33% 43% 48% 46%
Percentage of Babies who usually self-settled from awakenings (Goodlin-Jones et al 2001) 17% 62% 61% 50%
Longest sleep period without intervention (self-regulated) (Henderson et al 2011) 7.0 hrs(+/- 2.0)* 8.6 hrs(+/- 2.1) 9.7 hrs(+/- 2.0) 9.8 hrs(+/- 2.2) 10.3 hrs(+/- 1.9)

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Burnham et al 2002

Burnham, M. M., Goodlin‐Jones, B. L., Gaylor, E. E., & Anders, T. F. (2002). Nighttime sleep‐wake patterns and self‐soothing from birth to one year of age: A longitudinal intervention study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43(6), 713-725.

Burnham et al (2002) observed 80 babies and their carers during their night-time sleep (using video surveilance), and observed the same babies at 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months of age for two consecutive nights each time. (Longitudinal study).

Davis et al 2004

Davis, K. F., Parker, K. P., & Montgomery, G. L. (2004). Sleep in infants and young children: Part one: Normal sleep. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 18(2), 65-71. doi:

A review article on normal sleep in infants and young children.

Galland et al 2012

Galland, B. C., Taylor, B. J., Elder, D. E., & Herbison, P. (2012). Normal sleep patterns in infants and children: A systematic review of observational studies. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 16(3), 213-222. doi:

A meta-analysis (systematic combination of results from multiple studies that improves confidence in the the results) of studies looking at normal sleep patterns in the first 12 years of life. There is more information from this study in my baby sleep and night wakings post.

Goodlin-Jones et al 2001

Goodlin-Jones, B. L., Burnham, M. M., Gaylor, E. E., & Anders, T. F. (2001). Night waking, sleep-wake organization, and self-soothing in the first year of life. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 22(4), 226-233.

Goodlin-Jones et al (2001) observed 80 babies (3, 6, 9, or 12 months of age) and their carers during their night-time sleep (using video surveilance) for two consecutive nights. (Cross-sectional study).

Henderson et al 2011

Henderson, J. M. T., France, K. G., & Blampied, N. M. (2011). The consolidation of infants’ nocturnal sleep across the first year of life. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 15(4), 211-220. doi:

A review of the development of sustained-sleep capabilities in infants across the first year of life.


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