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What is Sleep Regression in Babies?

Baby’s blissful bedtime routine suddenly become a nightmare? Sleep regression may be the cause. Sleep regression in babies causes a sudden disruption to your little one’s sleep routine that can last for weeks. The change often seems to come out of nowhere, disturbing both naptimes and night times and leaving you feeling puzzled and frustrated. There are, however, things you can do to help your baby sleep better and re-establish a routine sooner.


Signs of sleep regression in babies

The most common signs of sleep regression in babies? The biggest clue is if your little one suddenly starts sleeping badly after previously sleeping well. That said, sleep regression can come in several forms, from refusing afternoon naps, to struggling to settle for hours at night.

Before deciding that sleep regression is the cause of your baby’s disturbed routine, it’s important to eliminate other possible causes, such as illness or overheating. Once you’re confident that baby sleep regression is the problem, you can begin finding the solution that works for you.

When does a baby experience sleep regression?

While sleep regression can affect babies at any age, there are some common milestones that trigger sleep regression.

4 month sleep regression

Probably the most common age for sleep regression is when a baby reaches four months old. The reason? Teething often starts around this age and symptoms tend to be worse at night for many little ones. (Learn more about teething and sleep.) It’s not the only cause though; your baby can go through the 4 month sleep regression stage even if they are yet to begin teething. Another key development at this age is that your baby now has a clearer perception of night and day, causing a shift in their sleeping routine. Some babies find this easier to adapt to than others.

9 month sleep regression

Survived the 4 month sleep regression stage? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always stop there. Another common trigger occurs when a baby is around nine months old. At this age, your baby is beginning to develop a whole range of new skills, including key milestones such as crawling, walking and talking. All these new developments are exciting for your little one and may lead them to want to sleep less as they continue to discover their abilities and the wider world. The result? The 9 month sleep regression stage means less napping and difficult bedtimes.

18 month sleep regression

Your baby may be moving out of the infant stage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that bedtimes will become a breeze. Sleep regression in toddlers is not uncommon and can be triggered by a number of factors, from the excitement of reaching yet more milestones, through to growing independence. Some toddlers may even experience their first nightmares, causing them to wake at night.

Sleep regression help – getting baby to sleep better

When it comes to coping with sleep regression, it’s really a case of making your baby’s bedtime routine as soothing and comfortable as possible:
  • Create a soothing bedroom environment: Use blackout blinds to block out daylight, play music to create a soothing soundtrack and put your little one to sleep in soothing natural baby bedding that will keep them cool and comfortable.
  • Keep a close eye on your baby’s temperature: Being too warm is a common cause of sleep disruption in both adults and children. Because babies are still developing, they are not yet able regulate their body temperature effectively, putting them at increased risk of overheating. Babies under 12 months old are particularly vulnerable to overheating and extra care should be taken. Learn more about your baby’s ideal sleeping temperature.
  • Make time to wind down: Gradually dim the lights in the hour before your baby’s bedtime, put noisy toys away and switch entertainment from their favourite TV programme to their favourite book, to help create a calming environment that sets the scene for rest.
  • Avoid changes to baby’s bedtime routine: Following night after night of sleep deprivation, it may be tempting to try a new routine. However, little ones are particularly sensitive to changes in routine and it could result in an even worse night’s sleep. Even if it does work, you could end up committing yourself to a new routine that’s difficult to sustain in the long-term – creating bigger sleep problems further down the line. Think carefully before making changes at this stage.
  • Maximise your own sleep quality too: Because getting a better night’s sleep will help you deal with the day ahead. While sleep disruptions can’t always be helped, there are steps you can take to improve your sleep quality when you can catch forty winks. Turn electronic devices off at least an hour before bed to eliminate the disruptive effects of blue light, and surround yourself in natural bedding – wool bedding, for example, has been proven to help you reach the optimal temperature for sleep sooner. So you can get a little more shut-eye before baby wakes.

Looking for more Baby Sleep Advice? Visit our hub to get sleep tips on everything from teething to temperatures.
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