Just when you think you’re finally done figuring out your wee one’s sleep schedule, suddenly your baby is up at late hours!
Out of the blue, your baby has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night. You’re suspecting your little one is going through a sleep regression, and you want to stop it. Well, do not worry, we’ve got you covered!
Sleep regressions are temporary changes in sleep patterns that occur during the first few years of life. These sleep regressions typically happen at 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, 18 months, and 2 years of age. Signs that might suggest sleep regression include frequent night wakings, fussiness throughout the day, trouble falling asleep (especially at night), and sleep resistance. Most sleep regressions last for two to six weeks.
You might be worrying that all your baby’s progress is out the window and be frantically searching the internet about what’s wrong. We’ve all been there, wondering what went wrong with our little one’s sleep patterns.
What is Sleep Regression and It’s Effects
Catching you off guard, sleep regressions sneak up on most parents during the early phases of their wee one’s life. Just when their little one is finally settling into their new surroundings and getting ahold of their new sleep routine, these disruptions mess up their schedules.
They might make you question what is wrong with your little one’s sleep. If your baby, who was previously sleeping perfectly fine, now has trouble falling asleep or wakes up multiple times throughout the night, they might be going through a sleep regression.
Sleep regressions are transient phases in which your baby might experience sleep disruptions. Occurring in most babies during the first few years of life, sleep regressions, fortunately, last for only a few weeks, but the bad news is that for some babies, these might occur multiple times throughout their lives.
Keep in mind, not every kid is the same, so what is true for the kid next door might not be true for your baby. Nothing is set in stone, and for some children, sleep regressions last for longer periods, which is perfectly normal.
What Triggers Sleep Regression in Babies?
With that out of the way, you might be wondering what caused this havoc in your child’s sleep schedule. Many babies begin experiencing sleepless nights as soon as they begin to achieve their developmental milestones.
Learning the Circadian Rhythm
You might’ve noticed the mysterious ways your newborn sleeps. Spending more than half of their day sleeping, newborns have trouble mastering the circadian rhythm that helps us sleep!
Circadian rhythms are our internal clocks that tick throughout the day, making sure we get our sleep during the night and stay awake when there is sunshine.
Unlike us, our little ones have not developed their internal clocks which might help them understand when to sleep.
Newborns do not catch onto these sleep patterns quickly and might transition slowly during the first few years of their life.
During this transition, as your newborn unlearns its “baby ways” and slowly adapts to an adult sleep cycle, they might experience sleep regressions.
This change in sleep patterns, in most babies, occurs along with the four-month sleep regression as cortisol, melatonin, and temperature rhythms settle in.
Though in theory, this might seem like a cup of tea, for most parents, it isn’t, and easing their child’s sleep regression is the first thing on their mind.
Development and Growth Spurts
As you watch your baby achieve their developmental milestones with each passing week, you might notice a change in their sleeping patterns.
Growth spurts or developmental leaps commonly accompany sleep regression, as these little ones sure love to practice their new skills at night.
Mastering their newly attained skills seems more attractive to these babies and they have a hard time sleeping soundly.
As your little one grows, they might have trouble sleeping without you. You might notice that they’ve grown clingy and want to be nursed to sleep. Sleep habits play a huge part in helping your baby fall asleep independently.
If your baby is off schedule and their daytime routine is all over the place, then they might go through sleep regressions quite often.
Moreover, nap transitions might also result in sleep regression as your little one increases their wake time, eventually skipping naps altogether.
A slow transition is essential, so keep in mind to not skip naps abruptly, which might leave you with a cranky baby.
Teething or Illness
It’s important to stay in touch with your doctor to make sure there is no underlying illness disturbing your wee one’s sleep. Toddler sleep regressions might also stem from teething pain.
What Ages do Babies Regress?
While many babies do not experience sleep regressions, the ones that do, might go through it multiple times. So, buckle up your seatbelts; you’re in for a bumpy ride ahead!
Ages at which most babies regress include 6 weeks, 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, 11 months, 12-15 months, 18 months, and 2 years of age.
6 Week Sleep Regression
As your sweet baby is having their first growth spurt, they might experience their first sleep regression, as well.
As your baby grows familiar with their new environment, they might have trouble staying asleep and be more interested in staying awake. This might result in overtiredness and voila: you have a fussy baby on your hands!
A short growth spurt might also accompany the extreme fussiness during this stage, as your wee one starts to unlearn the drowsy newborn state.
This sleep regression might last for a week or two, and your little one will get back to sleeping soundly until the four-month checkpoint arrives!
4-Month Sleep Regression: Growth Spurt
Just when things seem to get normal, your little one’s sleep cycles decide to mature into adult ones; that is, their one sleep cycle contains both light and deep sleep phases. Newborns spend most of their time in deep sleep, while adults experience both.
At 4 months of age, your child’s sleep cycles mature, and they spend most of their time in light sleep; hence, you might find them up at night multiple times.
This change is comparatively permanent and is a sign of development in your wee one, but keep in mind that it’s normal to not go through this sleep regression altogether.
This sleep regression starts when your baby is just 3-4 months of age and might last for up to 4 weeks. Common signs of sleep regression at this age include extreme fussiness with night wakings.
6-Month Sleep Regression: A Myth
While your child might have sleep problems at this age, most experts believe that there is no clear evidence that a 6-month sleep regression exists.
For many babies, this sleep regression accompanies a growth spurt, or it might be that your wee one has just achieved a developmental milestone and loves to practice it at night.
Try to keep an eye out for your baby’s sleep needs to keep them from getting overtired and help them fight sleep problems. At this age, most children need 11-12 hours of sleep at night, and during the day, a total of 2-3 hours of sleep is required.
Sleeping problems at this age might be due to hunger, so try to manage night feedings to make sure your child is well-fed throughout the night. These sleep changes include night waking, shorter naps throughout the day, and extreme crankiness.
You can try night weaning so that your little one gets better sleep by sleeping through the night.
8-, 9- & 10-Month Sleep Regression
Sleep regressions at 8, 9, and 10 months of age accompany major developmental leaps. Developmental strides at these ages leave them stimulated to explore the world around them, keeping them up at night.
Neurodevelopment at this age surely influences your baby’s sleep, along with teething, which is common at this age.
Your baby might experience frequent night wakings and shorter naps throughout the day, thanks to this sleep regression.
The 8-month sleep regression might continue until 9 or 10 months of age, although some babies start later. It is perfectly normal for kids to have sleep regressions at later ages or a bit earlier as well.
The 8-month sleep regression might last for 3 to 6 weeks or even longer. Try to get your little one checked by your doctor to make sure there is no underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
11-Month Sleep Regression
Infamous yet quite uncommon, the 11-month sleep regression might present itself as your little one is suddenly fighting sleep, staying up at night, or waking up fussy.
This temporary disruption requires patience and goes on for no more than a month. For most babies, this might last for 2-4 weeks. This might be an indication that your baby is ready for a transition from two naps to one per day, but try to be slow with this transition to avoid over-weariness.
12- to 15-Month Sleep Regression
In these stages, your little one might be skipping naps or taking shorter naps in two sessions. Nap transitioning is common at this age, and most babies enjoy one nap a day until 3 years of age, after which they might drop napping altogether.
At 12 months of age, what’s important is that you keep the needs of your 12-month-old in mind and make sure they get the sleep hours they need. Naps should last 2-3 hours with wake windows of 3-4 hours is the norm.
On average, most 12-month-olds need 13-15 hours of sleep per day with 10 hours of sleep being at night. Make sure you do not rush this sleep regression.
Sleep regressions at this age might also stem from the major developmental leaps that occur around this time. Your little one is finally taking their baby steps out of infancy, and these developmental leaps surely are a lot to take in for their little minds!
These newly developed skills keep them up at night, which might be the reason why they fight sleeping at late hours. Practicing these skills throughout the day might make these little ones feel less interested in doing so at night.
18-Month Sleep Regression
Your toddler might be throwing tantrums at this age, fighting sleep with their independence. As your baby learns the idea that they can say no to things, this makes bedtime more difficult.
Other reasons your baby is going through a sleep regression at this age might be teething or separation anxiety.
2-Year Sleep Regression
At this age, multiple factors come into play. Nap transitions, teething, developmental leaps, separation anxiety, and nightmares might cause the 2-year sleep regression.
These temporary toddler sleep regressions are not something to be worried about. Good sleep habits might help you fight such disruptions.
How do I Know if My Baby is Having a Sleep Regression?
If your little one is having trouble falling asleep, is fighting sleep, and is fussy throughout the day, then your baby might be going through a sleep regression. Some common signs of sleep regression include frequent night waking and a cranky attitude. Your little one might have separation anxiety or be experiencing teething along with these signs.
With changes in sleeping patterns, your baby might not get enough sleep throughout the night or during the day. Night sleep, on average, is 10-13 hours for most babies plus 2-3 daytime naps in order to avoid overtiredness.
How Can You Stop Sleep Regression in Babies?
Do you want to help your little one through these tough times but don’t know how? We’ve got you covered. Here are some ways in which you can help fight sleep regression in your baby:
Good Sleeping Habits
Practicing good sleeping habits goes a long way, so try to break negative sleep associations so that your baby can fall asleep independently.
Patience is Key!
It’s not easy, but letting your baby figure out this phase of their life is the only thing you can do, so make sure to be supportive!
Let them self-soothe whenever you find them up at night but try to check up on them whenever they are distressed avoiding building negative sleep associations.
Set a Bedtime Routine
Setting a bedtime routine is essential so that your little one understands the sleep cues that come just before bedtime. Dim the lights in the room, pull down the curtains, and create a good sleep environment for your baby.
Though not appropriate for babies younger than 3 months of age, try to help your baby fight sleep regression by sleep training them. Let them self-soothe, encourage independent sleeping, and be consistent with bedtime.
What Are the Stages of Baby Regressions?
Sleep regressions occur in multiple stages during the first two years of your wee one’s life. Sleep regressions can be roughly broken into 5 stages occurring at 6 different stages of life: at 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, 12 months, 18 months and 2 years.
For most babies, these sleep regressions are associated with major developmental changes or sleep-wake cycle maturation. Other reasons for sleep changes include teething, nap transitions, or illness.
Do Sleep Regressions Go Away On Their Own?
Sleep regressions occurring during the first 4 months of life indicate the maturation of sleep cycles, which is a permanent change. For other sleep regressions, they might go away, but assistance is needed, so make sure to gear up to fight alongside your baby! Good sleeping habits, a consistent bedtime routine, and sleep training are the tools you need to overcome these regressions.
Final Thoughts On Sleep Regressions
Sleep regressions may not occur in some children, while for others, they are temporary yet sudden disruptions in sleep in toddlers who had no trouble sleeping before.
You might notice night waking, trouble falling asleep, early morning wakings, shorter naps during the day, and extreme fussiness. Most children experience sleep regressions during the first 6 weeks of life, then at 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, 9 months, 12 months, and even at 2 years of age.
Some children also have sleep regressions at 11 months or 12 months of age. While most babies experience these regressions as they achieve their developmental milestones along the way, some babies have sleeping issues as their sleep cycles transition to those of an adult. Other causes include teething or illness.
Try to set a consistent bedtime, instill good sleeping habits, and sleep train to make this phase easier for your baby. Be patient, as these tough phases take time, and set your little one up for success by instilling good habits.