You are reading this article for one of two reasons: either your baby has always been a lousy sleeper or you are desperate for assistance. Or perhaps your infant has been sleeping well and is now keeping you awake at night. In both circumstances, your baby’s (unexpected) rough night’s sleep could be the result of sleep regression. I intentionally wrote “one” since (rejoice!) your child will go through several of these sleep-robbing stages.
It appears unfair: some parents have newborns that only sleep through the night, while others have very active sleepers next to them who frequently convert night into day.
And every now and then, an “excellent sleeper” turns into a nocturnal child, and the parents wonder aloud, “What happened now?” That’s what happened: sleep regression!
What is sleep regression?
A phase known as sleep regression occurs when your infant, who may have slept well or even all night the night before, begins to experience numerous nighttime awakenings and poor sleep. Even though your child is exhausted, he or she has difficulty calming down and getting asleep during a sleep regression. The good news is that it will pass. The bad news is that there are multiple sleep regression periods.
Multiple Sleep Regression Stages?
Infant sleep regressions have received little published research, although sleep experts generally agree that there are about six stages:
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 8 months
- 12 months
- 18 months
- 2 years
Sleep science lists 4 – 6 sleep regressions in all. That doesn’t imply your child truly includes everyone. Some babies and toddlers only experience sleep regression during one or two stages. Others are on all six and come not at all.
There is so much that happens in our babies’ first year that it’s a marvel they sleep at all. In comparison to other times in his life, your child is currently undergoing a faster and more strenuous period of mental and physical development.
In just 12 months, it grows from a helpless bundle to a self-assured toddler. It’s no surprise that so many children’s sleep patterns are disrupted.
Month 4 Sleep Regression
Many parents notice their infant sleeping less well in the fourth month of life. Naps during the day are becoming shorter, and sleep is being disrupted repeatedly at night, with the baby having difficulty returning to dreamland.
This is because the sleep cycle is changing or your infant is developing one. Furthermore, many babies still struggle to regulate themselves in order to fall asleep. They require their parents’ assistance – pacifier (dummy), carrying, rocking, snuggling, caressing, soft talking, and singing.
A lot goes on in the first few months of a baby’s existence – mentally and physically. Their brains are developing and bodies growing, at a rapid pace, becoming more aware of the new world around them, each day. It’s no wonder there are disturbances to their sleep with many internal and external changes going on.
Month 8 Sleep Regression
Your baby’s brain goes through a huge developmental spurt around the eighth month of life. These neurological changes are interrupting your loved one’s sleep, as well as your own.
Your child can now recognise themselves in the mirror, distinguish more individuals, understands that certain acts must be performed in a specific order, and begins to dominate the room by crawling, crawling, or even sprinting. Your youngster is less able to sleep because all of this needs to be processed at night.
Many babies are also reducing their daytime naps from three to two, which has an impact on their overnight sleep – usually negatively.
Sleep regression can persist between four and six weeks during the seventh and ninth months of life. You’re capable of it!
Month 12 Sleep Regression
As previously said, there is a lot going on throughout the first year of life. So it’s no surprise that just when one sleep regression appears to be coming to an end, the next one appears to be just around the corner.
Many children begin to walk (with assistance) shortly before their first birthday, their heads grow (not only in the size of their hats, but also in their greater drive to assert themselves), and then there are the teeth that want to come out.
Additionally, you shouldn’t lie down if you’re still learning to stand up; this rule also applies to napping. Many almost-toddlers have difficulty relaxing down and suddenly standing upright in bed at night for three to four weeks. (WARNING: Pay close attention to appropriate fall-out protection now!)
Month 18+ Sleep Regression
Anyone who expected that sleep problems would disappear with infancy was mistaken. Even in infancy, you will experience sleep regression. Again, your child’s future development is to blame – in a positive, natural way of course.
This time, it is about accepting oneself. Many children experience severe separation anxiety as a result of their extremely profound self-awareness, so when they fall asleep and quickly wake up at night, they want to be absolutely certain that their parents are still present.
There is a good chance that they won’t want to nap at all or will just want to nap for a short period of time because they frequently wake up in the middle of the day to make sure their parents are still around.
The fright, as before, fades after a few weeks. So hang in there.
Sleep regression usually occurs between the ages of two and three. Many parents also report a poor sleep phase between their child’s second and third birthdays. Because so much is going on in our child’s life at these times, these stages are rarely recognised as sleep regressions, despite the possibility that they are.
How to Deal With Child Sleep Regression
Keep an eye out for indications of sleep and wakefulness.
Pay attention to signals of exhaustion and adapt your sleep routine if necessary, as your child’s sleep rhythm may shift from time to time during the first year of life. To put it another way, move your bedtimes forward or backwards. This is true for both daytime and nighttime sleep.
Establish and stick to a routine.
A consistent resting and going-to-bed schedule assists your child in transitioning from waking to sleeping mode. It quickly realises that certain sequences of events result in sleep. This allows it to adjust and sleep better.
Maintaining these patterns gives your child security, which is another reason why it’s crucial to do so during a sleep regression. If required, you can move them forward or backwards and adapt them to a new circumstance, but you shouldn’t abruptly omit or change them entirely. This would further perplex your child.
When a child goes through a developmental stage and the ensuing sleep regressions, it can be an exciting period. It can help you have a better night’s sleep and bring more rest into your day, especially in the last few hours before bed. This is frequently easier said than done when you have older siblings in the house. Even if you only manage to settle down for the last half hour before bed, it’s still worth a go.
Safe, Calm, Secure
If you mature and alter yourself, as well as the entire environment around you, since you suddenly view it in a completely different way, it can be rather perplexing and generate concerns, especially in a little baby. Those who are terrified also sleep less well.
That is why it is critical that you, as parents, are there for your child today and provide them with security. Don’t leave them crying in bed alone, and always notify them when you leave a room. Only kids who feel safe may relax and sleep soundly.
Darkness (but not too dark)
Our bodies react to light as a result of evolution. When the light fades and night falls, our bodies create melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. That is why darkening your rooms benefit your children.
This is how the body releases the sleep hormone and prepares your children for sleep. Blue light, which is released by televisions, tablets, phones, and other displays, is the driver of melatonin production. This light jolts us awake. That is why reading to your children before bedtime is preferable to watching TV or any device screen: Even if your infant isn’t actively sitting in front of the screen directly, it emits this blue light into the room. Therefore, it is preferable to turn these screens off before your kids go to bed and replace them with a nightlight device if your child is comforted by some soft light in the room.
Thirst and hunger – We all know how difficult it is to sleep when you are hungry or thirsty; our children are no exception. In order to avoid this, make sure the young children are well-fed before bedtime, whether with breast milk, bottles, or actual (complementary) meals.
In the latter case, the last meal may have been a little longer ago to allow the stomach time to digest. It is acceptable to breastfeed or give a bottle shortly before bed.
Even if oversaturated children normally sleep soundly because they slip into an eating coma, you should avoid overfeeding your child for a better night’s sleep. For starters, this is unhealthy and can boost the risk of abrupt infant death in little babies. This only pertains to bottle babies; breastfed babies cannot be overfed.
Too hot, too cold, bright, dim, rough, gentle, loud, quiet? Take a close check of your child’s sleeping surroundings and ask yourself if there’s anything you could improve.
Some newborns prefer it to be as quiet as a mouse, while others sleep better if they can hear faint noises from their family because it makes them feel secure.
You don’t have to go through this alone; there are innovative aids that can help you and your children sleep. Many parents find that swaddling their infant or investing in a spring cradle helps with sleep regression in the fourth month of life.
White noise also soothes many children. Babies that do not suck on their mother’s breast to relax can use a pacifier to satisfy their need to suckle and therefore relax.
When does sleep regression end?
Sleep regression ends when it ends – it’s different for all babies, but the guide above gives you an idea of ages and stages. There is one certainty: it will pass! A minor consolation: the child’s sleep development does not finish until the age of three. Most children get it with better sleep, although it can happen before that.
This is unique to each child and each new stage of sleep regression. Some youngsters pass through the phase in a matter of days, while others require up to eight weeks before transitioning to the next sleep regression.
However, there are certain newborns who are not bothered by such scientifically confirmed developmental stages and simply sleep soundly.
Which sleep regression is the most severe?
There is no universal answer to this issue because every family’s experience with children’s sleep is unique. The worst is certainly the sleep regression, which comes absolutely unexpectedly because your child has been sleeping well thus far.
Even if you take every sleep regression with you, as I do, you may find that one phase is worse than the other. Some individuals are upset by their child waking them up more frequently at night, while others find it particularly exhausting when their child becomes abruptly alert for a longer amount of time at three o’clock in the morning due to sleep regression and wants to play.
What happens following a sleep regression?
It all depends. Either you will be able to sleep peacefully until the next sleep regression, or your child will continue to sleep poorly. But maybe you’re lucky and your child only has a sleep regression and sleeps nicely through the others. We wish you the best!
At the end of the day, the human brain, how unique each of ours is, and how it works, still baffles scientists. Sure, we have a general understanding of the brain, but a dream and sleep disturbance are much of a mystery.
Of course, if your child has persistent sleep problems, visit a doctor. Always find professional help and not just advice off the internet, and that includes this article.