Any deviation in a baby’s sleep schedule can cause worry in a parent. However, there is usually a good reason why your baby is sleeping more than usual. Sleeping or napping more can be strong indicators of a perfectly healthy baby. They may be experiencing normal growth spurts, recovering from illness, or merely teething.
Infants grow at a rapid pace, and sleep is imperative for their development. Continue reading to learn five common reasons why babies need a lot of sleep, along with some signs to look out for if you think your baby is sleeping too much.
How Long Do Newborn Babies Typically Sleep?
Since newborn babies haven’t developed a circadian rhythm yet, they don’t know the difference between day and night, so they usually sleep between 12 and 16 hours1 within a 24-hour period. As your baby gets older, they’ll develop a circadian rhythm and will hopefully start sleeping through the night with fewer naps during the day.
Why Is Your Baby Suddenly Sleeping So Much? Here are 5 Reasons
Witnessing changes in your child can be a tremendous source of joy. On the other hand, some changes may cause concern, especially when you’re unsure of why these changes are occurring.
1. Teething Babies May Sleep More
Oftentimes, people attribute their baby’s fevers, runny noses, excessive crying, and sickness teething. Teething does cause mild discomfort, so you can combat this by giving your baby a hard, cold object to chew on2 to provide some pain relief. For example, you can give your baby a chilled teething ring or an ice cube wrapped in a cloth2. Your pediatrician may recommend pain relievers or anti-inflammatories, but discuss that at length with them before giving medication to your child.
Growing and developing is exhausting, so it’s no surprise that teething sometimes causes your little one to be more tired than average. However, talk to your pediatrician if your baby’s teething seems particularly bad or if your child is inconsolable. Because many people falsely associate symptoms with teething3, illnesses can go unnoticed and untreated, which is especially uncomfortable for your baby.
Want to learn more? Check out How to Help Your Teething Baby Sleep at Night – 10 Soothing Tips
2. Your Baby Could Be Experiencing a Growth Spurt
Growing pains are real. As our children go through these short bursts of growth, they’ll likely experience changes in other areas of their life, such as their eating and sleeping habits.
If your baby is eating more4, sleeping longer5, or taking more naps, this is entirely common. Growing is hard work for your baby, so they’ll probably be hungrier than usual4. They’ll also probably sleep more because sleep is when the body rests and restores after experiencing lots of changes5.
It’s quite alright to let your baby sleep more, nurse more, or eat more solid foods if they’re experiencing a growth spurt. However, if you think your little one is sleeping or eating more than is healthy, it never hurts to seek advice from a health professional.
3. Your Baby May Be Fighting Off an Illness
With children being much smaller than adults, the effort their bodies exert to fight off a virus6 can be extraordinary. Fighting off a cold or flu is exhausting, and understandably, they’ll need more sleep to combat illness6. Let your little one sleep as long as necessary so their body is strong and healthy to tackle foreign germs.
When your child is sick, you may notice a loss in appetite as well. This is normal when getting over a cold7. If a decreased appetite persists longer than a week, it’s wise to consult a pediatrician.
4. Your Baby Has a Recent Vaccination
Immediately following vaccination, it’s common for a child to exhibit symptoms similar to that of illness8. Some vaccines are effective due to small traces of the germs they’re protecting against, so mild effects can sometimes be seen8.
Getting used to this vaccine while feeling a little bit under the weather can be exhausting for a baby. While your child’s body is developing immunity, they’ll probably feel sleepy and appear slightly sick.
While your baby is recovering, make sure they’re extra well cared for, just as you would for a sick adult. Take extra care that they’re comfortable and not too warm. Dressing your baby in lightweight, breathable clothes is a good way to keep them cool at night.
5. Your Baby’s Blood Sugar Could Be Fluctuating
You may develop gestational diabetes9 during pregnancy, which is diabetes first diagnosed while you’re pregnant. This condition could affect your baby in a few ways if not adequately controlled.
Unfortunately, doctors still don’t understand why some women get gestational diabetes, but they do think that obesity can play a role. Your doctor should counsel you on simple methods to combat developing gestational diabetes, like diet and exercise. However, if it goes ignored, gestational diabetes may lead to preterm birth, an overweight baby, obesity or diabetes later in life for your child, or even a stillbirth9.
Sometimes babies who are born to women with gestational diabetes will develop low blood sugar shortly after birth9. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is often resolved within a few months but in some cases can persist longer9. A common symptom of hypoglycemia is tiredness or fatigue10, so if your baby has low blood sugar, they may sleep more than usual.
How Can I Tell If My Newborn Is Sleeping Too Much? Here Are 3 Signs
It’s challenging to know the difference between what is normal versus abnormal behavior in your baby. We’ll explain a few instances when contacting a medical professional might be necessary.
1. It’s Difficult to Wake Your Baby Up
Small babies need to eat frequently, usually every few hours11. However, if you go to wake your baby in the middle of the night for a feeding and they take a bit of time to wake up, this isn’t unusual. As their circadian rhythms are still developing, they may not have a regular schedule yet1. Additionally, they experience many growth spurts when they’re infants, leading them to need a considerable amount of rest5.
However, sometimes babies can be harder to rouse when paired with respiratory issues12, like wheezing, loud breathing, fever, or sinking ribs when they breathe. If your baby seems unreasonably slow to wake up, their excess sleep may be due to a serious concern, so it’s always smart to consult a doctor.
2. Your Baby Also Isn’t Eating Well
Newborns need frequent feedings as they grow continuously11. If your baby isn’t interested in eating at mealtime, they’ll likely make up for it later in the day, so there usually isn’t a need for worry.
However, if your infant is eating considerably less than normal, they could be ill, have been recently vaccinated, or teething, which can make eating a little more uncomfortable. If your baby is sick, they’ll likely be sleeping more than normal too.
One way to check if your little one is eating enough is to do a diaper check13. If your baby is going through 8 to 10 diapers a day, that’s a positive indicator they’re receiving the proper amount of nutrients.
3. There Is a Fever or Other Symptoms Present
If your baby has a fever or other symptoms, they may be sleeping a lot due to illness. In this case, you’ll definitely want to head to the doctor. If your baby is less than three months old14, it’s wise to consult a doctor about anything fever-related. A three-to-six-month-old child who has a temperature also warrants a doctor visit14. Once they’re six months old, you can relax a bit; however, if they reach a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit and it lasts longer than a day, it would be wise to consult a medical professional14.
Find Out More: Is Your Newborn Sleeping Too Much?
When to Contact a Doctor
If it is difficult to wake your child, they’re not eating well, or they have symptoms of a fever or another illness, we suggest contacting your pediatrician. While these instances may mean nothing out of the ordinary, it’s best to be safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do newborns sleep so much?
When babies emerge from the womb, they are tiny and need a considerable amount of rest and nutrients to grow1. To do this, they need to properly fuel their bodies to enable their development.
When you were a child, your caregivers likely told you to eat fruits and vegetables, drink your milk, and go to bed at a reasonable hour so that you grow tall and strong. Newborns need a lot of sleep in order to evolve into strong, healthy children.
Babies won’t develop into healthy children and adults without the right resources to help them do so.
Why do babies eat less when they sleep more?
A child who is sleeping more and eating less could mean a few things. Frequent growth spurts require additional sleep5. This is because their bodies are experiencing so much change, so they’re exerting extra energy and need more rest. When a baby is sleeping more, there is less time in the day to eat.
Another reason for less eating and more sleeping could be teething; it’s uncomfortable to eat, and tiring for the baby, so they’ll probably sleep more2. If your baby’s diaper count is still on track, there is probably no cause for concern regarding proper food intake.
Can a baby sleep too much?
Yes, your baby can sleep too much. If your little one is sleeping too much throughout the day, they aren’t awake enough to be fed frequently, which can hinder their development. If your baby isn’t waking up naturally, we suggest you wake them up for their feeding times.
Should I let my newborn sleep all day?
No, you should not let your newborn sleep all day. While it may be tempting to let your baby continue sleeping if they’re not waking up on their own, if they sleep all day, they won’t be eating. Make sure you wake your baby up to feed them for their scheduled feeding times.
As a parent or caregiver, anytime you baby exhibits unusual behavior, it can become worrisome. You naturally want to provide the best care for our your child.
If your little one is sleeping more than usual, it’s probably because they’re experiencing a growth spurt or another change. However, it’s always a good idea to contact your doctor if you’re worried about your child’s sleep pattern.
A child’s behavior changes all the time, and it can be hard to keep up. In the end, all you can do is take a deep breath and know that you’re doing our best.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
- “Typical sleep behaviour (1) – newborns 0 to 3 months”. Better Health Channel. Last modified March 27, 2023. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/typical-sleep-behaviour-nb-0-3-months.
- Ashley, M.P. “It’s only teething… A report of the myths and modern approaches to teething”. The British Dental Journal. https://www.nature.com/articles/4801078. 2001.
- Yousif, Miami K. “Mothers’ false beliefs and myths associated with teething”. Qatar Medical Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7724255/. 2020.
- “Cluster Feeding and Growth Spurts”. WIC Breastfeeding Support U.S. Department of Agriculture. Webpage accessed August 1, 2023. https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/cluster-feeding-and-growth-spurts#:~:text=These%20growth%20spurts%20typically%20happen,usually%20last%20a%20few%20days.
- Lampl MD, Michelle., Johnson PhD, Michael L. “Infant Growth in Length Follows Prolonged Sleep and Increased Naps”. Sleep Research Society. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079944/. 2011.
- “What Causes Sleepiness When Sickness Strikes”. Penn Medicine News. https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2017/january/what-causes-sleepiness-when-sickness-strikes#:~:text=During%20sickness%2C%20cells%20are%20under,recover%20from%20the%20cellular%20stress. 2017.
- “ Eight facts about baby and newborn coughs and colds”. National Childbirth Trust. Last modified July 2022. https://www.nct.org.uk/baby-toddler/your-babys-health/common-illnesses/eight-facts-about-baby-and-newborn-coughs-and-colds
- Jarry, Jonathan. “I Felt Sick After Getting a Vaccine. Why?”. McGill University Office for Science and Society. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/covid-19-health/i-felt-sick-after-getting-vaccine-why#:~:text=A%20vaccine%20stimulates%20our%20immune,us%20fight%20the%20real%20deal. 2021.
- “Gestational Diabetes”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified April 9, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gestational-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20355339.
- “Low Blood Glucose (Hypoglycemia)”. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Last modified July 2021. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/low-blood-glucose-hypoglycemia.
- “How Much and How Often to Breastfeed”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified April 11, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/breastfeeding/how-much-and-how-often.html#:~:text=On%20average%2C%20most%20exclusively%20breastfed,on%20the%20time%20of%20day.
- “Signs of Respiratory Distress in Children”. Stanford Medicine Children’s Health. Webpage accessed August 2, 2023. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=signs-of-respiratory-distress-in-children-90-P02960.
- “How Often Should You Change Your Baby’s Diaper?”. Pampers. Last modified May 19, 2020. https://www.pampers.com/en-us/baby/diapering/article/how-often-to-change-diaper.
- “What should I do if I think my baby has a fever?”. Health Partners. Webpage accessed August 2, 2023. https://www.healthpartners.com/blog/what-should-i-do-if-i-think-my-baby-has-a-fever/.