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Sleep Regression: When Your Baby Doesn't Sleep As Well As Before

Sleep Regression: When Your Baby Doesn't Sleep As Well As Before

A few months into having your little bundle of joy, you finally feel like this parenting thing is getting easier. Sure, you need to feed them every few hours and change what seems like countless soiled nappies, but for the most part, your baby sleeps like an angel.

Until they don’t.

For some reason, your newborn isn’t sleeping as well as before, keeping you – and perhaps, the whole house – awake as well. Experts call this phenomenon sleep regression, and while it’s usually harmless, it can quickly make you (and your baby) feel frustrated.

Sleep Regression, Defined

Sleep regression happens when a baby or toddler, who previously sleeps easily and soundly, suddenly develops poor sleep.

Note that sleep regression can pertain to any change in sleeping patterns. It can point to shorter nap times, refusal to sleep, or night awakenings. Not all babies will experience sleep regression, but it is fairly common, particularly in their 4th, 8th, or 18th month.

The good news is, sleep regression doesn’t last forever, and there are practical ways to cope with it.

Why Sleep Regression Happens

Sleep regression might occur due to several reasons, depending on the baby’s age, environment, and development.

For instance, teething often causes fussiness, significantly affecting their sleeping pattern. The emotional and physical demands of an illness might also cause them to regress; sometimes, even after they’ve already recovered. Interestingly, growing up and gaining more skills and a deeper understanding of the world might make them want to delay sleep.

But what if you can’t make sense of their regression? Should you worry?

Not really.

Doctors explain that sleep regression may happen simply because they are developing their circadian rhythm. Unlike adults who have light and deep sleep phases, newborns mostly spend their time in deep sleep. But as they grow older, they begin to go into the lighter phase, too, where it’s easier to rouse them.

How to Cope with Sleep Regression

It’s difficult to predict how long regression will last, but the following tips might help you cope with it:

1. Start them early with a bedtime routine

The first tip to deal with sleep regression is to establish a bedtime routine. And yes, it’s recommended even to babies as young as two months old.

A routine is a set of things you do usually at the same time in the same order.

Before going to bed, consider bathing your baby or changing their diaper, reading them a book, and nursing them. Remember to feed them well. This will reduce the risk of them waking up because they are hungry.

2. Let them cry it out

Perhaps, the most practical tip is to let babies soothe themselves back to sleep.

Also called the “cry-it-out” method, this technique means you’ll let your baby fuss or cry until they get back to sleep. You will not pick them up and lull them to slumber.

Many parents find the cry-it-out method difficult because it hurts them to hear their baby cry. But experts explain that picking them up frequently might make them depend on you too much.

Here’s an important point: You can go to your baby when they wake up at night, comfort them, and let them know that you’re there. Just don’t turn the light on, talk to them, or pick them up.

3. Put them to bed drowsy, but still awake

As much as possible, don’t hold or rock your baby to sleep before transferring them to bed. Instead, lull them until they are drowsy and then put them to bed. This helps them fall asleep on their own, a very handy skill during night awakenings.

4. Make the environment conducive for sleep

As your baby grows, they become more aware of their surroundings.

Make sure that the bedroom is quiet, dark, and well-ventilated. You can also consider white noise or soft tunes to calm them down.

Key Takeaways

Sleep regression occurs when a child with no previous sleep troubles suddenly experiences poor sleep. Possible reasons include teething, an illness, gaining a new skill, or becoming more aware. Likewise, it might also happen because they are developing their circadian rhythm.

To cope, consider establishing a bedtime routine, putting them to bed awake, making the environment conducive for sleep, and letting them cry it out during night awakenings.

Learn more about Baby Care here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

The 4-Month Sleep Regression: What Parents Need to Know, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-4-month-sleep-regression-what-parents-need-to-know/, Accessed October 7, 2021

Typical sleep behaviour (4) – toddlers 1 to 2 years, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/typical-sleep-behaviour-nb-1-2-years#typical-sleep-behaviour-information-in-community-languages, Accessed October 7, 2021

Important Milestones: Your Child By One Year, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/milestones-1yr.html, Accessed October 7, 2021

Getting Your Baby to Sleep, https://www.healthychildren.org/english/ages-stages/baby/sleep/pages/getting-your-baby-to-sleep.aspx, Accessed October 7, 2021

Helping baby sleep through the night, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/baby-sleep/art-20045014, Accessed October 7, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated 2 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Kristel Dacumos-Lagorza