Definition of “sleeping through the night” and realistic expectations

Does your baby sleep through the night?

         If you are a parent, you ask or are asked this question at many times during your parenthood. The changes in patterns and duration of sleep rapidly occur during the first years of your little one’s life and at some point (usually by 6 months old), your baby is expected to sleep through the night. Then, what does “sleeping through the night” mean?

          Defining “sleeping through the night” can be a challenge since it can vary based on how you define “what sleep is” as well as the difference between deep sleep and wakefulness.  There are many sleep statuses which can be described differently. However, there are three criteria which are commonly used.

Criterion 1: Sleeping uninterrupted from 24:00 to 05:00 hours (from the study of Moore T& Ucko LE)

Criterion 2: Sleeping uninterrupted for 8 hours minimum between sleep onset and time awake in the morning (More socially valid criterion)

 Criterion 3: Sleeping uninterrupted from 22:00 to 06:00 hours (the family-congruent criterion)

          Regardless of your choice to determine whether your baby sleeps through the night or not, is it really possible that a can baby sleep 5 to 8 hours in a row? In reality, infants and young children have episodes of semi wakefulness that occur 5 to 7 times per night and each occasion typically last 1 to 5 minutes.

          Then, what does uninterrupted sleep mean? Defining this requires understanding of the concept of a baby’s self-regulated sleep. A self regulated sleep period includes sustained sleep, quiet wakefulness, initiation of falling back to sleep without parents’ intervention, or some combination of these. In other words the total amount of uninterrupted sleep from these criteria can also be called the longest self-regulated sleep period (LSRSP). Based on a recent study, LSRSP averages 9.7 hours at 6 months and increases to 10.25 hours by 12 months. Therefore, the data indicates that babies over 6 months can sleep through the night if he/she learns how to maintain self-regulated sleep!

          In order to increase one’s self-regulated sleep period so he/she can sleep through the night, you need to wait until your baby is ready and give him/her a chance to settle independently in the middle of the night. In the end, the difference between “good sleepers” and “poor sleepers” is the ability to self-soothe after waking.

Is your baby struggling to maintain self-regulated sleep and you need help from a professional? Please contact us via or from our website contact forms.



Ficca, G., Fagioli, I., Giganti, G., & Salzarulo, P. (1999). Spontaneous awakenings from sleep in the first year of life. Early Human Development, 55, 219–22

Goodlin-Jones, B.L., Burnham, M.M., Gaylor, E.E., & Anders, T. (2001). Night waking, sleep-wake organization, and self-soothing in the first year of life. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 22(4), 226-233

Henderson, J. M. T., France, K. G., & Blampied, N. M. (2011). The consolidation of infants’ nocturnal sleep across the first year of life. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 15, 211-220

Moore T, Ucko LE.(1957). Night waking in early infancy: part I. Arch Dis Child;32(164): 333–34