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Your Baby Does Not Need To Be Sleeping 11-12 Hours Consistently At Night!

Most parents are all too familiar with the challenges of getting their baby to sleep through the night. However, it is important to remember that babies have different sleep needs. By understanding your baby’s sleep needs, you can help encourage longer periods of restful sleep.

One of the biggest misconceptions that I see in the parents that I support is this unrealistic expectation that their baby should be sleeping 11-12 hours consistently through the night. I know this is what you are seeing on social media, hearing on podcast episodes, and reading in blogs – but the truth is that nobody should be expected to sleep 11-12 hours consistently, without waking, throughout the night. Actually, none of us sleep consistently through the whole night. Nope, we all have these things that are called partial arousals after each sleep cycle.

What Is A Partial Arousal?

As I just mentioned above, nobody sleeps through the night. Each and everyone of us (adults and babies alike) move through several cycles of sleep each night. Adult sleep cycles are anywhere from 90-120 minutes and babies’ sleep cycles are anywhere from 45-60 minutes initially.

As adults, we switch from one phase of sleep to the other, we rouse slightly, and as long as we are not hungry, cold, or have to go to the bathroom, we will go right back to sleep. We might pull the blanket up, turn over to the other side, have a sip of water, or snuggle up with our partner, but we go back to sleep pretty immediately.

This is what is known as a “partial arousal.” 

When babies experience these partial arousals, they may cry out, thrash around, or become startled.

Nobody sleeps through the night

Babies don’t sleep through the night and neither do adults in fact it is physically impossible for a human of any age to sleep through the night no matter if we do not sleep in one long chunk we do not simply go to sleep at night and wake in the morning.

Each and everyone of us move through several cycles of sleep each night.

As we switch from one phase of sleep to the other, we rouse slightly, and as long as we are not hungry, cold, or have to go to the bathroom, we will go right back to sleep. 

This is what is known as a “partial arousal.” 

When babies experience these partial arousals, they may cry out, thrash around, or become startled. If they associate something with going back to sleep (e.g., rocking, singing, patting), then they may wake fully and start looking for that same support. This is especially true if parents have only one way to support their baby back to sleep. 

Nobody sleeps through the night

Babies don’t sleep through the night and neither do adults in fact it is physically impossible for a human of any age to sleep through the night no matter if we do not sleep in one long chunk we do not simply go to sleep at night and wake in the morning.

Each and everyone of us move through several cycles of sleep each night.

As we switch from one phase of sleep to the other, we rouse slightly, and as long as we are not hungry, cold, or have to go to the bathroom, we will go right back to sleep. 

This is what is known as a “partial arousal.” 

Babies also have these partial arousals at night after each sleep cycle. They have the same needs as us adults but often do not have the ability to take care of their needs on their own (nor do they have that experience yet), so they may cry out, thrash around, or become startled.

Some babies find their hands and start sucking on their hands. Or they might rub their cheek against the crib mattress to soothe themselves back to sleep from that calm state of partial arousal. But if they have needs like hunger or thirst, or they’re cold, or they’re uncomfortable for some reason, or they’re just scared, lonely or need to know they are still safe, they are going to cry out for support. That is their way of communicating. This partial arousal may turn into a full arousal if their needs are not met quickly enough.

Sometimes if a baby associates something with going back to sleep (e.g., rocking, singing, patting), then they may wake fully and start looking for that same support. This is especially true if you only have one way to support their baby back to sleep. Now, I want to be super clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, nor are you creating any bad habits by offering them support to get back to sleep. But, I also recognize that waking frequently through the night to support your baby back to sleep is hard, and exhausting, and you would give anything for a solid 6 hours of sleep (trust me – that is all you need right now to feel like a new person!!!). Keeping baby close and parenting baby to sleep in a variety of ways will help them move through these cycles with less and less support. 

So, as you can see, babies and adults wake up during the night. This whole idea of sleeping 11-12 hours consistently through the night is just false.

It is important to remember that all babies are different. Babies have different sleep needs. I want you to look at the 24 hour period versus just the night sleep and please stop trying and struggling to get this magical 11 to 12 hours of consistent sleep for your little one. Trust me, your mental health will thank you!


Want more support on sleep, development, reflux, tongue-ties and more for babies 0-2 years? Join our community of mamas in the Sleep Deprived Mamas: Holistic + Heart-Centred Support (without sleep training).

Kaili Ets

Kaili Ets

I help overwhelmed and exhausted moms create a clear action plan around their baby's sleep, developmental, reflux, and overall functioning so they can tune into and trust their mama instincts and feel like the confident super moms they are.

hi! I'm Kaili!

Lovingly known as the Holistic Baby Guru. I have a passion for normalizing and bringing clarity around baby sleep, development, reflux, and more. Wife and mom of two, I understands the importance of trusting your mama instincts. I am on a mission to help mamas tune into their intuition and feel like the confident super moms they are. I like to think of myself as an approachable authority on all things baby-related, as that I provides down-to-earth advice that makes everyone feel like they can do this parenting thing!

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