‘Newborn sleep’ may seem like something that you do not need to prepare yourself for – surely all newborns sleep? Well in truth, newborn sleep can be tricky. A common challenge parents experience is the ‘cat nap’ – when your baby wakes just 15 minutes after being settled to sleep. The reason that your little one does this is that as we transition into a deeper sleep state, we all experience a hypnogogic startle. While most adults sleep through this, it can be sufficient to wake your baby.


You need to encourage your new baby to sleep through the transition into deep sleep and have a good sleep that incorporates at least one deep sleep cycle. If your baby continuously wakes after 15 or 20 minutes, he will not be rested and will be irritable during his next awake time. The reason that a deep sleep cycle is very important is that this is the sleep state in which we prune brain connections, it’s like defragging the brain of superfluous content and toxins. In the absence of this deep sleep state, people become very irritable and over stimulated.


There are ways to be prepared-ish for your newborn’s cat naps:

  1. The best way to help your baby to sleep through this little muscle jerk is to swaddle him. In this way, when your little one’s arms jerk out, they will be contained by the flexible structure swaddling provides.
  2. White noise also helps one shift into a deeper sleep state more quickly, enhancing newborn’s sleep. If your baby is more sensitive and your household is noisy, your baby may wake in the REM sleep state if there is an unusual or loud sound, such as a dog barking. White noise helps to mask this sound, helping your baby to sleep through noise. 
  3. If your baby consistently wakes after a 20-minute cat nap, reswaddle him, pat him or put the dummy back in to try to get him to settle back to sleep. If all else fails put him in a sling or pram to help him go back to sleep.
  4. If he will not resettle you will have to reduce his ‘awake’ time to only 30 minutes and then try again to get him back to sleep.


These simple strategies will help your little one to sleep for longer than 15 minutes. Most new-borns will sleep for between 45 minutes and 3 hours once they have passed through the light sleep stage.