Sleep Regressions: The what, when, how and why?

Sleep regressions: A very over used phrase and one that you are probably familiar with. I actually think that it’s a really unhelpful term as ‘regressions’ implies that you are going backwards with something but it could actually be because of new developments and progressions.

But what are sleep regressions?

A sleep regression describes a period of time when a baby who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking in the night again, taking short naps or skipping naps for no apparent reason. Most parents assume that sleep will gradually get better as their baby gets older but unfortunately this is not always the case. Sleep tends to be more like a roller-coaster ride; periods of feeling like you are winning with sleep and then periods when sleep goes out the window. Parents often describe being caught totally off guard and feeling very frustrated!

Why do sleep regressions happen?

Remember, every baby is different but common reasons for sleep regressions include: illness, starting solids, pain, teething, learning a new skill (such as learning to crawl), moving house, separation anxiety, disruptions at home such as moving house or going on holiday. 

When do sleep regressions happen?

One of the common times for sleep regressions is at 4 months when your baby’s sleep cycle is maturing and is now cycling between light and deep sleep more often. Your baby may suddenly start waking very frequently at night and/or taking short naps. Remember this a very normal and healthy developmental milestone as your baby’s brain matures.

The most common age for poor sleep in the first year is between 8 and 10 months. According to scientific research, most babies at this age are waking regularly throughout the night and many still require night feeds. The 8-10 month sleep regression could be all thanks to the developmental milestones that are happening around this age. At this stage, most babies are learning to crawl, to pull up, to cruise and are also absorbing lots of language. Separation anxiety starts to kick in around this age as well as the end of maternity leave and mothers returning to work meaning babies are learning how to cope with day care. Throw in teething and it’s no wonder babies struggle to sleep at this age!

Unfortunately toddlers and older children can also have sleep regressions. These tend to be linked with stages such as moving to a big bed, potty training, starting preschool or when a new sibling arrives. All of these events can leave your child feeling anxious or upset and tend to disrupt their regular routines leading to disturbed sleep.

How to move past sleep regressions?

You know the what, the why and the when behind the common baby and toddler regression now onto how can I fix this and get some sleep again?…

  • Be patient! This is just a normal phase and most sleep regressions will pass on their own without you doing anything. They usually last between 2 and 8 weeks.
  • Ask for help! This is the time to accept help from friends and family to help you cope with being extra tired. Be easy on yourself. Get a takeaway, have an early night and remember that this will pass.
  • Offer an earlier bedtime if necessary. Sleep regressions can lead to missed sleep which can cause overtiredness which can spiral into more missed sleep and so on.
  • Try to keep bedtime routines the same and not make any extra changes. Your baby needs the predictability and consistency of routine to offer the stability they need.

How are you managing your little one’s sleep regressions and what ages did they happen? Please share your tips and questions in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *