Do Unborn Babies Sleep In The Womb
Pregnancy can be strange sometimes. Mothers feel their babies in the womb, but they have no way of knowing what it is that their little ones are up to. Even with the technology available to us today, it is not easy to find out everything that a baby does in the womb. We know a few things like how they get their nutrition and how waste is removed. We know that babies are active since mothers can feel them kick.
But what about sleep? Do babies sleep when they are in the womb? What are the sleeping hours in the womb? Do they have a regular sleep and wake cycle? How can you know if your baby is sleeping in the womb? There is so much to learn and share about unborn babies and sleep. We aim to shed some light on this topic for all the expecting mothers curious to know if their babies sleep in the womb. Read on then!
Do Babies Sleep in the Womb?
Yes, they do! But how often do babies sleep in the womb? Well, babies actually spend most of their time sleeping in the womb. While you are up and about or going about your day, some movements can lull your little one to sleep. Your baby spends at least 90% of each day sleeping.
However, there is not much known about how the fetus sleeps during early development. Studies will often be able to only depend on REM sleep, something that is observed around the seventh month. It is known that babies go into REM sleep as the rate of breathing raises, along with the rate of blood pressure and heart rate. Babies may even experience dreams, though this is not known for sure.
What Does Research Say About Babies Sleeping in the Womb?
When researching Fetal Sleep Behaviours, researchers have used many different methods to ensure that they can provide the answer to any query in relation to the question, “Do fetuses sleep?”
In a study conducted in 2008, Fetal Electrocardiographic recordings were used so that researchers could compare the sleep habits of babies in the womb and outside after their birth. The same baby was observed in the womb and out so that the behaviour could be compared properly.
Here researchers found that sleep patterns of babies are developed while still in the uterus – those babies who slept more while in the uterus had better sleep patterns after birth.
Keep in mind that while your baby might sleep a lot during your pregnancy, as a newborn, even those with the best sleeping habits will need to wake up every few hours for feeding. While in the uterus, this was not a problem as they were getting their nutrients straight through the umbilical cord.
In another study conducted in 2009, researchers wanted to find out a little more about sleep patterns of the earliest stage. This is difficult to do in humans, so they tried to find out more about it by studying foetal sheep. The unborn sheep showed brain patterns that pointed towards immature cycles of sleep.
In a study conducted in 2010, the fetal heart rate was tracked, and the results showed that unborn babies have regular waking and sleeping patterns.
Dreaming and rest are the first two things we often think about when we hear or see the word “sleep”, but that’s not all that infants in the womb need it for. In a study conducted in 2018, it was found that babies also experience REM sleep. This allows them to process their environment. It also stimulates brain activity and development.
Studies conclude that there are four stages of sleep that your baby will experience. The first and second stages involve light sleep, while the third and fourth will involve healing and deep sleep.
What Can Make an Unborn Baby Sleep?
While babies are mostly asleep in the womb, they do have a few moments of wakefulness. When this happens, what is it that puts a baby back to sleep? If you are curious about what that is, here are a few things that can lull your little one back to sleep:
1. Mom’s Movements
While you move around during the day, the movement rocks the baby to sleep in the womb. When in the womb, the baby feels cosy and warm. A little gentle rocking is a perfect way to get a baby to sleep even outside the womb. The reason could be related to them being used to the movement they experience when still in the womb.
2. White Noise
The only noise that your baby can really hear inside the womb is a mix of the rush of blood and amniotic fluid, and your heartbeat. This is known as white noise. This is very comforting to your baby, and it tends to put babies to sleep.
3. Vibrations and Soft Sounds
The white noise, as well as mom’s muffled, soft voice sends vibrations to the womb. This calms your baby and sends the fetus to sleep.
4. The Food You Consume
What you eat makes a huge difference in how much your baby sleeps. If you consume sugar and caffeine, your baby is not likely to sleep much. But when you consume a balanced diet, your baby will be able to relax and sleep like normal.
Baby’s Sleep Patterns in Different Trimesters
Since babies are always developing in the womb, the sleeping patterns in each trimester will vary. As more of the brain develops, so will the behaviour of your baby. Here is how a baby sleeps during each trimester:
1. First Trimester
- Baby starts to yawn at eleven weeks, though any state of actual sleep is not yet reached. The brain cells that cause “sleep” the way we are familiar with it have not yet been formed.
- Brain cells that cause us to sleep begin to develop. Now is when you can say that your baby sleeps the way we sleep.
- Due to the still-forming brain cells, babies are often in a perpetual state of sleep before their brain actually wakes up.
2. Second Trimester
- Baby’s brain will wake up. This means that babies develop REM sleep.
- Some babies will “wake up” at 24 weeks, others at 30. When the baby “wakes up” is related to how long babies sleep in the womb at 26 weeks, 28 weeks or any other given time.
- Sleep and wake cycle will begin. Now your baby will be able to experience a few moments of wakefulness.
3. Third Trimester
- At seven months, babies will continue to sleep most of the time.
- Now, their brain will go back and forth between non-REM and active REM sleep. This happens approximately every half an hour.
- When they wake, you will feel them as this is when the kicking and stretching take place.
- Their brains will most likely begin to process what they had learnt when they were awake.
- Baby indulges in nine hours of REM sleep a couple of weeks before birth.
- A week before birth, REM sleep goes on for twelve hours.
Do Fetuses Stay Awake More During the Night Than During the Day?
It is not uncommon for pregnant women to feel as though their baby is a lot more active at night. When your baby feels you moving around all day, and then at night, the movement is less or stops completely, your baby may wonder what is going on. The movement will often lull them to sleep during the day, so its absence is strongly felt. When they are astounded by the lack of movement by you, they may move around a lot more. This does not mean all babies will be the same way. Babies behaviour in the womb may vary from each individual.
Mothers may also feel that their babies are far more active at night simply because they are the ones who have stopped moving and can now feel the movement of their babies a lot better than before. Your daily occupation may distract you from realising that your baby does move around during the day as well. So, does the baby sleep in the womb when the mother sleeps?
Truthfully, babies sleep when the mother is sleeping and even when she isn’t. Just because there they move even during the day, it does not mean that they are awake. They tend to sleep for a few hours and then wake up, and they make some movements even during their sleep. When babies experience sudden bursts of activity in the brain, they may kick or squirm. This is all perfectly natural.
When your baby is in the uterus, REM sleep is experienced. But unlike the REM sleep that we experience outside the womb, a developing baby will not have the paralysis that comes with it. Your baby’s brain will still pass commands to move, and though your baby’s body will follow those instructions, your baby is often sound asleep while doing so. Mothers may feel these movements as light punches or kicks.
If you have ever pondered the question – how much do babies sleep in the womb? You are not alone. Many expecting mothers often wonder about the length of time that a baby sleeps while in the womb. Babies in utero are awake for only about two to three hours a day, and this is only in the third trimester. This means that the baby is not really awake during the day or the night; most of the time, your baby is actually just fast asleep. What your baby alternates between are non-REM sleep and REM sleep. You will be pleased to note, however, that during those few hours of wakefulness, your baby can still hear your muffled voice and will learn to recognise what mom sounds like.
1. In Which Positions Do Babies Sleep in the Womb?
Here are some positions babies can lie in:
- Posterior position – facing the opposite way with their backs to your back.
- Breech position – where their bottom leads first, and their head is at the top.
- Transverse position – across your womb from side to side.
2. Do Babies Open Their Eyes in the Womb?
Yes, around 27-28 weeks gestation, babies do open their eyes in the womb.
3. How Long Do Babies Sleep in the Womb?
Wondering how long do babies sleep in the womb? Well, babies sleep 90 to 95% of the day when in the womb.
4. How Do I Know If My Baby Is Sleeping in the Womb?
Does fetus sleep in the womb? Yes, they do. Indirect signs of your baby sleeping in the womb include reduced movement, consistent sleep-wake cycles, increased movement after eating, ultrasound observations of stillness, and potential heart rate changes.
Learning how much does a 20 week fetus sleep can be surprising to mothers. Especially since moms can feel some lively punches and kicks and are told about the sleepless nights, they will have to endure once the little one is born. Some believe that a baby’s foetal sleep pattern can be linked to sleep patterns post-birth, but this is not always the case. When your baby was in the womb, there was no need to wake up to be fed or changed. These are necessary when your baby has entered the world, so even the best sleepers will wake up during the night. We hope all your questions related to a baby’s sleep when in the womb have been answered.
1. Chitkasaem Suwanrath, Thitima Suntharasaj; Sleep-wake cycles in normal fetuses; National Library of Medicine; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19434415/; March 2021
2. Understanding Your Unborn Baby; womans.org; https://www.womans.org/our-services/mother-and-baby/pregnancy-and-childbirth/3rd-trimester/fetus-in-utero
3. Adrián Poblano, Reyes Haro, Carmina Arteaga; Neurophysiologic Measurement of Continuity in the Sleep of Fetuses during the Last Week of Pregnancy and in Newborns; National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2140151/; December 2007
4. Bonding with your baby during pregnancy; pregnancybirthbaby.org.au; https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/bonding-with-your-baby-during-pregnancy
5. Fetal presentation before birth; mayoclinic.org; https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/fetal-positions/art-20546850