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    Contrasting sleep: Infants and adults

    Contrasting sleep: Infants and adults

    White paper

    November 2023

    Laura Nauha, M.Sc. (Health Sci.), Doctoral Researcher, Hannu Kinnunen, PhD

    Infants' sleep differs significantly from adults in terms of needs, duration, and patterns. Understanding and supporting these differences not only aids infant development but also enhances caregivers' well-being, subsequently improving parenting. The paper outlines these differences, delves into the physiological reasons behind infants' unique sleep patterns, and provides tips for healthy family sleep practices.

    infant sleep, adult sleep, sleep rhythm, wellbeing, circadian rhythms


    Infants' sleep fundamentally differs from that of adults. There are major differences in overall sleep need and duration as well as in the structure and timing of sleep. Moreover, sleep-wake patterns develop continuously through childhood until they become fairly static in adulthood. By understanding and supporting infants’ sleep, one also supports the caregivers’ sleep and their energy levels, which has been suggested to be a beneficial method to promote positive parenting and better responsiveness to infants’ needs. This white paper starts by summarizing the differences between adult and infant sleep. Next, it presents physiological mechanisms that explain why infants actually sleep as they do, and finally, it gives science-backed tips for healthy sleep practices for families.


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