Transitioning to a toddler bed smoothlyAugust 3, 2021
Figuring out random night wakingsNovember 22, 2021
Sleep Regressions By Age
Stages and what to expect
What are sleep regressions?
Sleep Regressions are typically a period of time where your child who was previously sleeping well, suddenly starts waking more frequently at night, takes shorter naps and or resists the onset of sleep. They are about 6 major sleep regressions in the first 2 years of your child’s life which can last 2-4 weeks. These Regressions usually happen around big developmental progressions. Having said all that, these phases affect babies differently, and while some may not experience any hiccups, it could be a drastic challenge for others. These regressions can occur at any time or may not happen at all but I have listed the typical ones we see and the ages they occur.
- 4 Month- The four month sleep regression is first and for this reason usually the hardest regressions that most parents encounter. Your baby is coming out of the newborn phase and suddenly is; no longer napping for long periods during the day, very aware of their surroundings and developing new skills like smiling and rolling over. Due to these changes you may find settling down for naps a lot more challenging and when they finally do, they only last 30-45 minutes. The reason for these sleep changes is that there is a reorganization of sleep at this age. Your little one’s sleep cycle moves from having 2 deep stages of sleep to a more adult-like 4 stage sleep cycle, including 25% REM sleep and 2 other lighter stages of sleep. As their sleep pattern changes and they are getting used to these lighter stages of sleep there is more of a chance that your baby may awaken easier than they did before. Your baby may also be practicing their new rolling skill at night which contributes to more night wakings than usual. You can read more about the 4 month Sleep Regression here.
- 6&9 Month– By this time your baby is capable of sleeping through the night or may be waking for 1-2 feedings, when suddenly they start having sleep disruptions. At this stage your baby is developing many physical skills such as starting to sit up on their own, some form of crawling (8-9 months) and even pulling themselves up to standing position (9 months). You may find your little one wanting to practice these new tricks at night, contributing to these sleep disruptions. Also that first tooth you thought was coming since they were 4 months old, is finally making an appearance, causing crankiness during the day. Separation Anxiety also comes into play closer to 9 months resulting in your baby wanting to wake at night for some extra cuddles. If your baby is fighting a particular nap while sleeping well at others, it may be time to drop a nap and settle on two as they approach 8-9 months.
- 12 Month- Your 1 year old is going through big developmental leaps at this stage; learning their first words, starting to take their first steps (this may be a bit later for some babies), also expressing their new found independence. While some babies pass their first year with no major sleep regressions, others may struggle. If they start fighting their afternoon nap, treat it as a regression for the period of time before dropping that second nap. Separation anxiety is quite common and you may find putting your little one to sleep at night takes that much longer. At this stage your Child’s first set of molars may also start to make an appearance, causing a lot of discomfort and fussing during the day and can disrupt sleep.
- 18 Month– Just when you thought you had the regression thing figured out, the 18 month sleep regression comes along. This is a big one and can be quite challenging as you are no longer dealing with a baby but a toddler who has a mind of their own. These little people are going through yet another developmental progression as they learn to express their likes and dislikes, start wanting to do things independently and develop a broader vocabulary. They are little sponges soaking in everything around them. Somehow bedtime seems to be pushed back with tantrums and reading 10 more books. They may also start to get their second set of molars which is quite painful and can contribute to fussiness during the day and sleep disruptions at night. Your toddler may also be going through separation anxiety at this stage and may get quite upset when you leave the room at night or nap time. Hang in there mom and dad, think about the end goal here!
- 24 Month– Dealing with this regression is a bit different to the others as your little one is going through some big life changes that may be causing their sleep disruptions. These changes may include potty training and a possible sibling on the way which may mean moving from their crib to a bed (which we don’t advise till closer to 3). Your little one is also able to stay awake longer during the day before their nap and bedtime. At this stage your toddler may also start having real nightmares contributing to those night wakings. Your toddler may also be getting their second set of molars which is a very painful process and can cause fussiness during the day and disruption to sleep at night. With all these changes happening it can be quite challenging and exhausting, but rest assured this too shall pass. Stay strong!
Regressions are typically a very challenging time and tend to happen right when things start moving along smoothly, and you feel like you have gotten the hang of parenting. If your little one is developing physical skills, allow for a lot of practice during awake times. If they are experiencing separation anxiety, set aside 10-20 minute periods during the day for very intentional one on one time with them. If they are simply going through a leap or teething, offer comfort and love during the day. When it comes to your child’s sleep, always try to stay as consistent as possible as consistency and predictability provide structure and reassurance in your little one’s life;.
Remember regressions can last 2-4 weeks and if you notice sleep disruptions after this time, it could be that your little one has developed some strong sleep associations which prevent them from sleeping easily and confidently. If this is the case feel free to reach out to us to help get your little one back on track.
Reach out for your FREE 15 MINUTE CONSULTATION!
Victoria Thompson is a Certified Sleep Consultant with The Dream Team.
If you’d like to chat with her about getting your little one to sleep better, schedule a free 15 minute call to get started!