Why don't babies ever sleep through the night? Science reveals.

3 min read
BABY

There's actually a biological reason that babies don't sleep through the night - they're actually NOT designed to sleep the entire night. Here's why.

Babies aren't designed to sleep through the night. 

Two leading experts have dedicated their research to the reason.

Babies are actually supposed to wake up.

Professor Peter Fleming, who works for Infant Health and Developmental psychology at the University of Bristol, says it is natural for them to wake up often.

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“Human infants are not designed to sleep for long periods, it’s not good for them, and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that there is any benefit to anybody from having a child that sleeps longer and consistently."

Here's another revelation - NOBODY is designed to sleep through the entire night, adults included.

Dacia F Narvaez is a professor of psychology at Notre Dame University, and says the main misconception of parents is that everybody has an undisturbed eight hours of sleep per night.

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“Adults don’t sleep through the night either, they just forget that they’re waking up routinely. We jam all our sleep into eight hours because we work during the day and that’s just not normal if you look at the history of humanity."

Here's another fascinating revelation.

Human babies don't sleep through the night because they are born earlier than other animals, and so they need close contact or an "external womb".

“Human babies are born 9 to 18 months early compared to other animals. Other animals are able to walk around and start eating – we can’t do that. We look like foetuses when we’re born and we are," Narvaez told Buzzfeed News.

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“So that means you want to keep that baby calm while the brain systems are finishing because they only have 25% of the adult brain-size developed, and a lot of systems haven’t set their thresholds and parameters yet. They’re expecting good care – like in an external womb or nest. We call it the evolved developmental niche or nest.”

Babies who wake up more frequently have actually been associated with a higher level of intelligence.

There's a link, apparently, between “very high levels of developmental and intellectual achievement and not sleeping throughout the night."

Babies will also sleep through the day and wake up at night, to secure your undivided attention.

“Typically, babies love sleeping during the day, and 6pm to midnight is the time they’re going to want to be awake the most,” says Fleming.

“Actually, biologically that’s a big advantage because they will have more attention from their two primary caregivers at that time of day than at any other, because there are fewer distractions. From a biological point of view what the baby is doing is completely normal and sensible. It just doesn’t fit in with our 21st-century expectations.”

Babies are also not meant to be apart from their parents.

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“If we go back to evolutionary history of humans,” Fleming says, “babies spent all their time in close and continual contact with their mum, they get carried around everywhere.

“I’ve quite done a lot of work in Africa and in various other places and babies are carried around with their mother all the time. They’re asleep when they need to sleep and they’re awake when they need to be awake, but they’re constantly with their mother and that facilitates breastfeeding.

“If the baby is constantly with mum, the idea that they need to sleep for long periods of time doesn’t really arise. In most parts of the world and most infants on this planet, that is still the case.”

Well, there you go. Science behind sleepless nights explained.

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Written By Emily Whitham