Sleep regression is one of the biggest nightmares for new parents. This is an experience that every parent will ultimately go through without a doubt. It can occur at different ages and stages of a baby’s development. In fact, sleep regression can start anytime from 4 months and go all the way up to 24 months. Quite simply put, sleep regression is a stage during a child’s development when their sleeping habits shift.
There are many different ways to identify the onset and presence of sleep regression. One of the most obvious signs is the irregularity of sleep. You will notice that your child is no longer sleeping through the night. Moreover, their naps will become much shorter and more interrupted.
Adults use different terms for interrupted sleep patterns. Chances are before you had a baby you never knew of the term “sleep regression”. However, now that you are a parent, let us introduce you to the nightmare of sleep regression.
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Does it feel like your child is waging a war against napping and sleeping? Is your baby waking up every 20 minutes? Do you constantly feel tired and exhausted? If you answered yes to all of the above, then you are definitely dealing with the sleep regression demon.
So let us break down sleep regression!
How long does sleep regression last?
Sleep regression usually lasts between 3 to 6 weeks. Most parents are caught off guard. They describe it as a phase that hits out of nowhere. There are no solid reasons as to why their child is suddenly resisting sleep.
Is sleep regression the same in all children?
The short answer to this one is no. Every child is different. So if you have heard of stories or shared them with other parents, you might not find similar responses or experiences. Some children experience sleep regression during a certain age and other children experience it much earlier or later.
Funnily enough, something that most parents can agree upon is that sleep regression usually hits when you think you’ve finally conquered all of your baby’s sleep challenges.
When does sleep regression occur?
The earliest and most common period of time during which almost every single parent comes face to face with this demon is the 4-month mark. Consider this one permanent, parents.
4 month sleep regression
Around 4 months, your child goes through their first transformative phase. This is when your baby will shed their more babyish sleeping patterns and shift towards different sleep cycles. This period of transition is not usually a very smooth one. It includes a lot of late nights (if not sleepless nights altogether). The naps will grow shorted and the mood swings will get wilder.
6 month sleep regression
What about the 6-month mark? Sorry to break it to you all, but that is more of a myth than a reality. What actually happens at the 6-month mark is a growth spurt. This naturally interrupts sleep patterns as well as other habits. Does it qualify as sleep regression though? Nope.
8 month sleep regression
Around the 8-month mark, your baby is undergoing a lot of developmental milestones. Sleep regression that occurs at this age can hit anywhere between the 8 to 10-month mark. This is around the same time that children start crawling and becoming more active – pulling themselves up and cruising etc. Add to that the rapid brain development, language recognition, and teething and you have yourself an irritable, fussy, and hyperactive child. Irregular sleep patterns at this age are to be expected.
9 month sleep regression
The 9 month sleep regression is mostly an extension of the 8 month sleep regression phase. What usually occurs is that some babies experience sleep regression at 9 months as opposed to 8 months. That is completely normal since every child grows at a different rate.
10 month sleep regression
Similarly, the 10 month sleep regression period is usually a culmination of months 8 and 9. The only difference with sleep regression when it strikes at the 10-month mark is the fact that most children can stand up in their beds at this point. This might complicate matters a little.
11 month sleep regression
This particular one is the least common of all. Sleep regression at 11 months of age is the least reported one. The most important thing about this particular one is that parents will start noticing that their child is no longer receptive to two naps per day. While it may appear that your child is ready to transition to single nap days, it is too early. Most children switch to only one nap per day between 15 to 18 months. Treat this as any other regular sleep regression phase.
12 month sleep regression
Similar to the 11-month experience, 12 month sleep regression has one added advantage. While you should still treat it as a phase, children who experience sleep regression at 12-months are usually ready to switch to a one nap per day schedule. However, you must not try to push the transition. Treat this as a speed bump along the way.
15 month sleep disruptions
At 15-months, your child will begin walking and as a result experience far more stimulation than they used to. It is normal to expect changes and fluctuation in their sleep cycle at this stage. It is actually quite common for children at this age to wake up at night, particularly if they are used to two naps per day. During this age, you should know that you are not dealing with sleep regression. There are no 3-6 weeks of endurance after which sleep issues will magically disappear. Now is the time to start fixing a proper schedule for your child. This will determine the quality of their sleep (as well as mood and habits) moving forward.
18 month sleep regression
This is a sensitive age for both children and parents. At 18-months, your child can talk (or babble at least), walk, express themselves, and actively involve themselves in the world. Disruptions in sleep patterns are to be expected at this age. Moreover, a lot of children begin experiencing separation anxiety at this age. To top it all off, teething does not make this a pleasant experience at all.
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2 year sleep regression
By the 2 year mark, there are far too many factors that play a role in your child’s sleep patterns. You can no longer chalk it up to something as simple as a growth spurt or developmental milestones. With potty training and the transition to a bigger bedroom perhaps, your child’s sleep habits will shift. Around that age, a lot of children start having nightmares and night terrors. This can be quite taxing to deal with. It will contribute to a lot of wakeful nights.
How to fix sleep regression?
Now, this is a question every parent is dying to know. The 4 month sleep regression period is unarguably the toughest and is entirely unavoidable. There is no avoiding it. You just have to see it through. The good part is that once you are done with the first one, it gets easier.
Some things you can do to fix sleep regression and make it easier to deal with are:
- Extra feedings: Do not hesitate to introduce extra night feedings. This is a temporary thing so don’t worry about messing up your child’s feeding schedule.
- Monitor sleep schedules: It’s important to monitor your child’s sleep schedule to deal with sleep regression in an informed manner. Invidyo’s Smart AI-Powered Baby Monitor allows you to log your baby’s sleep to determine sleeping habits and trends. According to research, lack of adequate sleep in the first 24 months of a child’s life can cause physical and cognitive developmental problems in the future.
- Seek help: This is a time when you will need all the help you can get. Don’t shy away from asking for help from your partner, family, or friends.
- Offer comfort: You will need to cuddle and kiss your child more often. However, be careful not to introduce new habits such as rocking or reintroducing old habits such as a pacifier (if your child has been weaned off it).
- Early bedtime: You can totally introduce earlier bedtimes. Lesser sleep leads to crankiness and mood swings which contribute to missed sleep and now you have a bigger problem on your hands. Don’t be afraid to offer an earlier bedtime should you see it fit.
As long as you understand the dynamics of sleep regression, you will not find the need to compare your experiences with another parent. That is why it is important to break down the fundamentals of sleep regression to be better prepared to tackle it. Understand why it happens and when. Then you will be better equipped to deal with it.
At what age did your child experience sleep regression? Let other parents know in the comments below and share your experiences with handling it.