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Newborn babies quite often have their days and nights confused or mixed up, so that they sleep a lot more during day. Learn why your baby has days and nights mixed up and what to do about it here. There are some simple steps you can implement right now to start teaching your baby to sleep better at night.

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Mom’s Question:
My one-month-old son seems to have his days and nights mixed up. He sleeps wonderfully, for 3-4 hours at a time.

He is awake for a little bit during the day but seems to fall asleep much better during the day. At night, after his change and feeding, he is wide awake. I do not think he’s still hungry or, in general, uncomfortable because as soon as I snuggle him up to me while laying down, he goes to sleep. The second I lay him back in his bed, he wakes up.

How do I get him to go to sleep easier at night without having to be held, as well as keep him up for longer periods of time during the day without upsetting him?


Baby Has Days And Nights Mixed Up: Why and What to Do

Why Newborn Babies Have Their Days and Nights Confused

The immature circadian rhythm

Newborn babies often have their days and nights mixed up due to their developing circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a biological clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and other physiological processes, such as rhythms of the hormones melatonin and cortisol, over a 24-hour period. It is primarily influenced by external cues like light and darkness. In adults and older children, the circadian rhythm is relatively stable, but in newborns, it is still developing and takes time to mature.

There are several reasons why newborns have their days and nights mixed up:

In the womb, the baby relies on time-of-day signals from the mom’s circadian cues (e.g., melatonin, cortisol, temperature), which affect the fetal circadian system. One time cue necessary is maternal melatonin, which crosses the placenta rapidly and unaltered to provide daylight-related information. Melatonin receptors are present at 18 weeks pregnant in the fetus, while the baby does not secrete melatonin until after birth. Hence, in the womb, the baby’s circadian rhythm fully depends on the mom’s melatonin.

In addition to the lack of their own melatonin production, the lack of light exposure inside the mother’s womb might also not allow the baby’s circadian rhythm to develop before birth.

At birth, newborns lose direct communication with their mother’s circadian rhythm and must develop their own. Infants are born with an immature circadian system that does not produce overt rhythms, as evident by their absence of significant circadian rhythmicity in melatonin and cortisol rhythms and a stable sleep-wake cycle.

How the circadian rhythm and infant sleep pattern develop

According to research (reference below), newborns sleep for about 70% of the time during their first few weeks out of the womb, and the timing of their sleep episodes is distributed equally throughout the 24-hour day with no clear rhythm. But already, when they hit the 2-week mark, they start sleeping in roughly 4-hour chunks. It is possible to see differences in rest-activity patterns during day and night within their first weeks of living.

Around 5 weeks old, you might notice that they’re starting to get into a rhythm, with about a 25-hour cycle for their sleep-wake patterns. And by the time they reach 15 weeks, their wake and sleep times start to become more predictable and organized.

Finally, when they’re between 6 to 9 months old, most babies are capable of sleeping through the night, having at least 6-hour stretches of solid sleep.

Hence, older infants with more mature circadian rhythms are more likely to sleep during the night for longer durations than newborns.

Other factors that contribute to babies being awake at night

In addition to the immature circadian rhythm, babies need for frequent feeding will impact their sleep cycle. Newborns need to eat frequently for their growth and development, and they often wake up every few hours to be fed. These feeding cues can disrupt their sleep-wake cycle, leading to irregular sleep patterns.

Another reason may be that young babies have shorter sleep cycles and have not yet learned to fall back to sleep on their own.

Tummy pain and the need for diaper changes can also affect their sleep.

Finally, while you were pregnant, you probably moved around some during the day and literally rocked your baby to sleep. Then in the evening and at night, your baby woke up when you were still.

So, to conclude, it is completely normal for a 1-month-old baby to have their days and nights mixed up. Their sleep pattern develops and will become much more stable over the coming months. 

Still, there are things you can do to improve your baby’s sleep pattern as fast as possible:

7 Tips to Fix Your Baby’s Day Night Confusion

To help your baby develop a more mature sleep pattern, here are some things to do:

1. Daylight

Make sure he gets as much natural daylight as possible during the day. Go outside with him in the stroller or baby carrier (avoid direct sunlight, though), or be close to the windows as much as possible when indoors.
For example, make it a habit to sit close to a window when feeding him. You can even put his bed close to a window as long as it isn’t draughty or in direct sunlight. Don’t ever draw the curtains in the daytime when your baby is asleep.

2. Play and Interaction During Daytime

You can also play with your baby and stimulate them as much as possible when awake. During the next few weeks to come, your baby is likely to start staying awake for longer periods. Talk to him, show him stuffed animals with black and white stripes, sing to him, and so on. For some tips on how to play with a 1-month old, click here.

3. Avoid Nighttime Stimulation

At night avoid stimulating your baby when he/she is awake. For example, don’t change diapers unless you really have to (= poop!). If you have to change diapers, keep the lights as dim as possible, don’t talk and be fast. Use a pajama or sleep bag that enables diapering without undressing your baby completely.

Nightime feedings should be as quick and lowkey as possible. Regardless of if you breastfeed och bottlefeed at night, prepare the feeding so it can be quick and more or less done in the dark.

4. Create an Optimal Sleep Enviroment

Make sure that your baby’s night time sleep environment is as good as possible. Use blackout curtains, ensure that your baby is not too cold or hot and that sudden high sounds are avoided. Some babies sleep better in white noise.

Some babies sleep better when swaddled, but there is certainly a tradeoff between a good swaddle and the need for easy diaper change at night. If your baby is young enough to poop after every feeding, a sleep bag or pajama that open at the bottom allows you to changed diapers without undressing your baby might be a better option. You just have to try and see what works best for your child.

5. Create an evening routine

Make the evenings a time to wind down. This is good for older siblings too. Dim the lights, make interaction softer. Do baby massage, or a bath. Sing a lullaby.

Even though newborn babies do not have any regular sleep routines yet, this is a way to help them notice differences over the day and actually also to help YOU slow down after an intense day.

6. Create a morning routine

Yet another routine..?! Well, I am not after to structure and plan your whole life, but just as you can make the evenings soft and slow, you can make the mornings active and energetic. This is great for your baby, and can certainly be great for you. Here are some ideas on morning routines for new moms.

7. If possible, breastfeed

If possible, breastfeed. Research has found that melatonin and cortisone levels vary in breast milk depending on the time of the day – contributing to a faster establishment of a stable sleep/wake pattern in breastfed babies compared to formula-fed. And if you pump and save the milk, note the time of the day you pumped (in addition to the date) and make sure to feed your baby daytime milk and nighttime milk at the right time of the day.

If you do all this, your baby will learn to separate day from night.

To help your baby sleep better in his crib, try these tips

The other thing you mention is that your baby doesn’t want to sleep without you. This is also completely normal. He’s been very close to you for nine months, so no wonder close to you is where he feels really safe. However, it is tricky to balance a baby’s need to sleep close to you and the very real risk of SIDS associated with co-sleeping. Here are some things you can do to make the crib more comfy for your baby:

  • Make the crib smaller. Put rolled blankets in a circle to make his sleeping place as small as possible. Newborn babies want to have something soft close to their heads. Just ensure you don’t put anything in the bed that can fall over his face.
  • Roll one of your used tops and put it close to his head as part of the small bed you’re making for him.
  • Before putting him back in his bed, make sure it is not too cold. You can either put a warm (not hot) water bottle (or something similar) in the bed for a while or, even better, use a sleeping bag for your baby. With a sleeping bag, your baby will enjoy more or less the same temperature all the time, helping him to stay comfortable. If you use a water bottle or bean bag, make sure the bed doesn’t become too warm, and take the bottle or bag out before putting your baby in the crib.
  • If nothing works, consider “close-sleeping“. Many babies sleep a lot better together with their mom during their first months of living, but true co-sleeping is recommended against due to the risk of SIDS. If you or your husband smoke, if the bed is very soft, or if any of you have consumed alcohol, co-sleeping can be very dangerous for your baby. Close-sleeping would include using a co-sleeper, which means you can easily touch your baby and snuggle up together without the risks related to bed-sharing. 

Here are additional tips on how to help your baby accept crib sleeping.

Also, remember that many babies do wake up very easily during the first few months. It is part of their natural sleep pattern. You can learn a bit more about babies’ sleep patterns here.

I hope these tips will help you out,


More Babies That Won’t Sleep at Night

Research References

Wong SD, Wright KP Jr, Spencer RL, Vetter C, Hicks LM, Jenni OG, LeBourgeois MK. Development of the circadian system in early life: maternal and environmental factors. J Physiol Anthropol. 2022 May 16;41(1):22. doi: 10.1186/s40101-022-00294-0. PMID: 35578354; PMCID: PMC9109407.

Carolina Escobar, Adelina Rojas-Granados, Manuel Angeles-Castellanos, Chapter 16 – Development of the circadian system and relevance of periodic signals for neonatal development, Editor(s): Dick F. Swaab, Felix Kreier, Paul J. Lucassen, Ahmad Salehi, Ruud M. Buijs,
Handbook of Clinical Neurology, Elsevier, Volume 179, 2021, Pages 249-258,

Find comments below.

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Hospital Worker

    I always thought co-sleeping was safe until recently. I co-slept with my first child, who is now 5 years old, and still will for short naps with my newborn but not for overnight. I work at a hospital and we have had three cases of SIDS in the last year where it is believed that the baby was accidentally rolled on and/or suffocated by mom or dad while sleeping. This hits me close to home because one of these cases was one of my best friends and her newborn son, three weeks old. They had laid him down with them to sleep and when they woke up, he was not breathing and had suffocated. I guess it can never be proven exactly what caused it but they were co-sleeping at the time, as was the cases with the other two families I mentioned above that brought their newborns into the ER unresponsive. I just think it’s better to be safe than sorry and like I said until it hit close to home, I never saw a single problem with co-sleeping.

  2. Teresa

    I was wondering what your advice for co sleeping was. I am breastfeeding my two week old, he sleeps really well if I let him sleep on me but if I put him in the basinett he cries. I don’t mind sleeping with him if it means we can all get some sleep, but I want him to be safe. He won’t do a co sleeper because he wants to be touching me.

    1. Paula @ easybabylife

      Hi Teresa, have you tried snuggling really close to the co-sleeper and keep your hand/arm next to your baby? Bed-sharing – although common – is not recommentded do to the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Actually, co-sleepers are not recommended either, but likley to be a better option than true bed sharing.

  3. Shelby

    I had the same experience with my son as an infant, and we successfully were able to get him adjusted to normal sleep patterns that lasted until his teens. Then the sleepiness during the day returned, and now at 23(years old), he has now been diagnosed as having Narcolepsy. I came upon this posting in doing a web search on this topic since he had his days and nights mixed up as an infant. I don’t think there is anything I could have done to prevent him from reaching this point as an adult. Other research suggests it might be genetic. I would keep an eye on your child as they grow up and see if the problems reoccur later in their life. Of course, it might not be related at all.

  4. Confused Dad

    Okay, my one-month-old is exhibiting the same as the little ones mentioned here. The advice is good and we will try all of the suggestions, but I do have a question…if we allow her to sleep with us for a few months, won’t it be more difficult to get her to sleep on her own in her crib once her nights and days are corrected? My 21-month-old never had this problem, and she was much earlier than the new baby. She is sleeping fine on her own in her toddler bed now, and don’t want the new one to become so attached to sleeping with my wife and I that she becomes one of these kids who sleep with their parents until they’re six years old. Thanks ahead of time for any help you can give.

    1. Lynn

      Just wanted to comment on your question – the first three months of life are hard for the baby to cope and his nervous system is developing. There’s not much you can do to “spoil” a newborn 3mos or less. Do what you can to help him cope, to create new habits when you can, but don’t worry too much about it at this young age. At three months you can put baby back in his own bed, and he can cope with the separation a bit easier than when he is younger than 3 months, fresh out of the womb. Hope that helps!

      1. Confused Dad

        Thanks for the advice. I have heard that from a few people about them being so “new” that they don’t develop habits that easily. There is a family member in my wife’s family that had this issue with their youngest. She slept with the mom and dad until she was 11 or 12. Guess that is on a very extreme level, but that was what came to mind when I read the suggestion about sleeping in the bed with us. We’ll give it a whirl and see what happens. Again, thanks.

  5. Ella

    Hello New Mom!
    I wanted to comment on your little one being mixed up on their days and nights. I believe that this is simply normal. It took some time, but my son eventually grew out of this phase and was able to figure it out. I would encourage napping during the day, but I made sure I limited it so this wouldn’t conflict with his bedtime.
    Hang in there. It will get easier!

  6. Brigitte

    My son is 2 months old and I am having problems getting him to sleep at night. He sleeps well during the day but at night he is wide awake for hours of the night. He also keeps wanting something in his mouth all the time. I’m not sure if it has to do with breastfeeding and he won’t take a pacifier. And he’s not hungry when I see that he does that with his hand. Is there anything that can be done about that?