Twin Sleep Patterns
The first thing to keep in mind when thinking about sleep and how to manage with twins is that they are babies first, and twins second. Their sleep patterns and their needs will change with age. They will always be twins, but for a short year they will be babies. As twins are often born early they follow a sleep trajectory that more closely matches their gestational age rather than their birth age. Care should therefore be taken to avoid comparisons with other babies who were born later in their gestational development.
Are twin sleep patterns different?
Research that examines sleep patterns and sleep duration of healthy twins is rather scarce, as is empirical evidence of how parents manage the sleep disruption associated with caring for twins.(Damato and Zupancic, 2009, Sleep patterns and fatigue in parents of twins) However, the sleep patterns of twin babies are broadly similar to those of singletons. (Bartlett and Witoonchart, 2003, The sleep patterns of young twins) The major difference to consider is gestational age.
Whether twin babies sleep differently from singletons in other ways is unlikely. Issues generally relate to their potential prematurity and/or to the amount of time they have spent in an incubator. If babies are coming home following a prolonged stay in a special care baby unit they are likely to be unsettled in the initial weeks due to their dramatic change in environment. Another issue to consider is the environmental temperature which may affect their sleep – you may find that twins sleep better and achieve more stable temperatures if placed together. Also remember that if they were born prematurely they will have smaller stomachs and require more frequent feeding than babies of the same chronological age, which will affect the frequency of night waking.
Many parents find that their twins feeding and sleeping patterns become synchronised if they are fed and slept together. See our section on co-bedding for more information.