Learn more about baby's REM sleep cycle and stages of sleep

Everything on the REM sleep cycle and newborn sleep apps

By Matthew Tarkington
Learn more about baby's REM sleep cycle and stages of sleep

What is REM Sleep Cycle?

A well slept baby is a happy baby

All humans (adults and babies alike) have different sleep cycles we go through. These stages of sleep range from barely awake (what some call light sleep) all the way to the most important form of sleep: what we call REM.

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and is the deepest sleep that we have. REM is incredibly important for each of us as it helps our brain recover and store information from the day before. Without REM you are essentially never allowing the computer in your noggin to fully rest and recuperate, preparing for the day to come.

Time and length of a REM sleep cycle

Babies sleep much longer than adults

There are two types of sleep generally studied by neuroscientists: NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement). 


During non-rapid eye movement, our sleep is generally quiet and our bodies are beginning to repair and grow. Blood is increased toward the muscles and tissues grow during this phase.


During rapid eye movement, our sleep can be noisy and irregular. Dreams are happening as our brain is repairing and storing information itself. (Dreams are kind of like a loading screen as your computer is starting up again).

REM For a Baby

As an adult, you have the possibility of going fast to sleep when your head hits the pillow. However, for children, it takes much longer for them to actually fall into a deep sleep. Also, the amount of time we spend in a deep sleep can be up to 90 minutes at a time, for a baby, they are lucky if they even get close to an hour.

Because of the length of general REM time in babies (about fifty percent of their sleep is in the REM cycle), many parents are concerned whether or not they should wake or calm their baby.

For every 50 minutes of nap time, about 25 minutes of it will be in REM sleep. During this time, your child may look agitated, frustrated or be stirring. This is normal for rapid eye movement and you should be careful to not wake your baby when they are in this stage.

Stages of sleep

1. Light Sleep

Our sleep cycles usually start with light sleep. This is where we are getting drowsy, but haven't quite entirely fallen asleep. You know, like when you are watching that rerun again, and entirely zoned out for a moment? You weren't FULLY asleep, this was just the "light sleep" phase. With babies, this can be when they seem to become very drowsy but haven't quite yet closed their eyes.

After "light sleep" is what is referred to as true sleep. This is when you wake up and know that you really did fall asleep. Your eyes close entirely and you have stepped out of consciousness. You are sleeping... more officially.

2. Deep Sleep

Now is what people refer to as "deep sleep". This is when your breathing becomes rhythmic, your heartbeat slows down and your body begins to repair itself. During this process, your immune system is restored, your body grows and develops and the energy that you have gained throughout the day is stored.

3. REM

Finally, we come to rapid eye movement. If you have ever heard someone talk in their sleep, they more than likely were in a REM state of slumber. During this stage, you can see your baby laughing, talking, moving and even seemingly playing with their eyes closed (or blinking).

Newborn sleeping chart

Here is a general sleep chart when it comes to newborn sleep habits. However, please be in mind that this is not an exact science. Every baby is different and their sleep needs can differ from day to day depending on their individual needs.

Newborn - 2 Months Old

Nighttime sleep for a newborn is generally between seven and nine hours. However, naps during the day accumulate almost the same amount of time in totality. This comes to somewhere in the ballpark of 14 - 18 hours of sleep every day.

3 Months- 5 Months Old

Night sleeping slightly increases during this time and you can expect 8 to 10 hours of shut-eye each night. During the day naps slightly decrease in time coming to about four or five hours each. Generally, the total amount of sleep says the same at around 14 - 18 hours a day.

6 Months - 8 Months Old

Sleeping at night has become easier and your little one can sleep from 9 to 11 hours at a time now. Day naps are very slim and come to only about 3-5 hours a day. The total amount of sleep comes to about 13-16 hours.

9 Months - 12 Months Old

During this time sleep focuses more on night time than during the day. That means nighttime sleep increases to about 10 - 12 hours a night. During the day, naps total only about 2 to 4 hours making the total about 12 - 16 hours of sleep a day.

Apps that help you track everything about your baby

Baby sleep apps to monitor how your baby sleeps

Let's face it, apps make life simpler. I have one for my fitness, one to keep me on task with my projects, and even one that helps me with parenting goals. I'm sure that your phone is pages full of apps that you don't use anymore, or barely do, but I promise that if you pick up one of the apps listed below, you will be using it easily and consistently as a new parent. I have listed several apps below that can help in your journey of helping your child have a healthy sleep schedule.

Cozi Family Organizer (Apple IOS & Google Play) Price: FREE with in app purchases

‎Cozi Family Organizer on the App Store
Cozi Family Organizer – Apps on Google Play

This simple, yet versatile app allows you to keep your families schedule in one place. It is also a great option for keeping track of your babies sleep patterns and any other information you may need to help keep track of for all of your families needs.

Baby Tracker - Newborn Log (Apple IOS & Google Play) Price: FREE with in app purchases

‎Baby Tracker - Newborn Log on the App Store
Baby Tracker - Newborn Feeding, Diaper, Sleep Log - Apps on Google Play

With a simple, streamlined approach to tracking everything your baby does, Baby Tracker is a great addition to your parenting app library. With a 4.7 (out of 5) user rating in Apple and almost 5 (out of 5) in Google Play, this app is praised by users and critics alike. Baby Tracker makes tracking daily items simple with their intuitive interface and includes numerous categories including diaper changes, feedings, growth records, and a sleep tracker.

Baby Connect - Activity Log (Iphone, Android, Ipad) Price: $5.99

Baby tracker and log for Android, iPhone, iPad, Kindle and for the web

Recommended by the Wall Street Journey, New York Times and numerous other media outlets, Baby Connect is one of the industry leaders in baby tracking. Baby Connect also allows for different users to access the app to input their own data allowing your babysitters, nurses, family members, daycare staff and family to all keep data secure and synced. Along with syncing the child's data, Baby Connect also allows different users to attach photos and messages to each other through the app.


Sleep is incredibly important for your child

Learning more about how your child sleeps will help you as a parent to know how, when and if you should wake your baby during their sleeping cycle. However, always remember that every child's needs are different and may change from day to day. Generally, after a busy morning or a full day, your child may need more sleep than their schedule allocates.


You are the parent and you know the needs of your child. As you decide to give extra time in a nap that you feel is needed, just adjust accordingly. Sleep tracker is a good tool to help you figure out how to adjust through whatever pattern of sleep your little one needs.