Sleep and awake states

Baby ClinicChat to our expert Maggie, our team of trained parent supporters and other mums in the Channel Mum support group.

Did you know that there are six different sleep states that your baby can be in? Knowing the different sleep states really helps as we can use this knowledge to know when best to meet our baby’s various needs.

State 1.  Deep sleep

When they are in a deep sleep babies are likely to display the following: regular breathing, eyes closed, no rapid eye movement sleep, no spontaneous movements, or sleep startles.

State 2. Light sleep

During the late phase of sleep babies display irregular breathing and more gentle movement of arms or legs. Although their eyes are closed, you might notice rapid eye movement under the lids.

State 3.  Semi-alert/drowsy

Eyes may be open or closed but there is a lot more movement than in the light sleep state.

State 4. Quiet alert

In this state babies are bright and alert and move their arms and legs about a lot. When babies are in this alert stage this is a good time to play and chat with them.

State 5. Busy alert

Eyes are open and there’s a lot more movement in the arms and legs. Babies may start to fuss a bit at this stage too.

State 6.  Crying

You are left in no doubt when you hear this stage!  Your baby needs you to do something and do it now! Check out our information on crying and soothing.

Health Visitor approved advice

This guide has been checked and approved by our in-house Health Visitor, Maggie Fisher in September 2018.

Other factsheets in this series

Safe sleeping for babies

Your baby’s average sleep needs

What are your baby’s signs of tiredness?

Your baby’s sleep cycles

The effect food can have on your baby’s sleep

Comforting and soothing your baby to sleep

Sleep aids that might help settle your baby

Swaddling your baby

Bedtime routines

Using the ‘Gradual Retreat’ sleep training method

Using the ‘Controlled Checking’ sleep training method

Using the ‘Kissing Game’ sleep training method

Using the ‘Pick Up, Put Down’ sleep training method

Using the ‘Wake to Sleep’ sleep training method


You might be interested in

The Channel Mum sleep guide

How to soothe a crying baby