Baby not sleeping through the night? You're doing nothing wrong - experts share why this could be a good thing (even if it doesn’t feel like that now)

Here's why it could be a good sign if your baby doesn't sleep through the night - and you'll want to remember it next time you're woken up in the small hours

A woman sat with a baby in bed during the night
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One expert has shared why it's totally normal for babies not to sleep through the night - and it could actually be a good sign.

As many parents will know, having a baby means kissing goodbye to a good night's sleep. Just when you think you've figured out when babies sleep through the night you might be hit with the 10-month sleep regression, or any other number of new challenges that have altered your baby's sleep routine.

And while we know that your baby waking up at 5am is one of the less enjoyable aspects of parenting, perhaps next time you're trying to soothe your baby in the small hours you can take some comfort from the fact that it might actually be a good thing.

One scientist from the University of Bristol has explained some of the positives of your baby not sleeping through the night, including an association with higher intelligence levels and better mental health. Every cloud, right?

Speaking to Buzzfeed, Peter Fleming, professor of infant health and developmental psychology, explained, "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." He added, "That's not perhaps what most parents would like to hear."

A tired man holding an awake baby at night

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The good news, however, is the link between "very high levels of developmental and intellectual achievement and not sleeping throughout the night," according to Professor Fleming.

He also explained that babies prefer to be awake between 6pm and midnight, and would rather sleep during the day, adding that there is a biological advantage to this, 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."

Professor Fleming adds, "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."

In fact, Professor Fleming explains that the idea that babies should sleep through the night is a modern expectation, when it's actually more natural for them to wake up often.

"One needs to remember that society changes faster than biology," he says. "A biological pattern that's taken half a million years to develop can't just be suddenly ignored and turned around. Particularly when there's no advantage in doing so."

It's worth remembering that for many adults it's rare to sleep through the night without waking, but the difference is that babies struggle to get back to sleep themselves.

As Professor Fleming explains, "Adults tend to go through a 90-minute sleep cycle and come up almost or perhaps completely to the point of waking up and then go back to sleep.

"We tend to have two or three of those during the night time before we become aware that we've woken and go back to sleep. Babies have a 60-minute cycle."

So while it might not be the news parents want to hear, take small comfort in knowing that if you've tried everything to get your baby to sleep through the night and it's still not happening, this is normal and you're most certainly not the only parent going through it.

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Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.