Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Regression (2023)

Getting enough sleep is essential for the healthy development of your child. On average a baby under 3 months old should be getting between 14 to 17 hours of sleep. A baby between 4 and 11 months old needs about 12 to 15 hours. As your child gets older, they'll need a little less sleep; toddlers need 11 to 14 hours typically.

Developing a sleep routine can help make sure your kids are getting enough sleep, but it can be difficult to figure out. And just when you think you finally have the perfect method, your baby might experience sleep regression.

It’s perfectly normal for your baby to suddenly develop a poor sleep pattern. Some nights they might sleep through the night without making a peep, but on other nights they might keep you up all night with their crying. When this happens, the most important thing to do is help your baby through the regression—and get them back to their regular sleep routine.

What is Sleep Regression?

Sleep regression happens when your baby suddenly starts to deviate from their regular sleeping patterns. Sleep regression is a phenomenon that could happen with any baby or toddler. It’s perfectly normal, but it can quickly become frustrating for both you and your baby.

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Typically, sleep regression is tied to your child's developmental growth. "You might notice a week of more night times awakenings than usual, and a week later they are suddenly saying a lot more new words, or they’ve gone from crawling to standing or standing to walking," says Navya Mysore, MD a primary care physician at One Medical in NYC.

Any change in your child's sleep habits could be sleep regression. For instance, if your baby has just started sleeping through the night, they might suddenly become fussy and wake up several times. Or they might start to refuse to sleep at naptime when they were doing it so easily before. You might also notice that they’ve become fussier or crankier than usual during the day, typically because they aren’t getting enough sleep.

What Causes Sleep Regression?

The most common cause of sleep regression is your child hitting a developmental milestone. Some other common causes of sleep regression include:

  • Illness: When your child is sick they are often uncomfortable and restless. This will affect the quality of their sleep, sometimes causing it to regress.
  • Teething: Teething is a painful process for your child. The discomfort they feel as their teeth emerge can affect their sleep pattern.
  • External changes: A huge change in your child’s life like moving houses or getting a new sibling could also cause sleep regression.

How Long Does Sleep Regression Last?

Although it often doesn’t feel like it (especially on days when your child can’t sleep at 2 am), sleep regression is typically short-lived. On average, it can last between a week to two weeks. The length of your child’s sleep regression depends primarily on what’s causing it.

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Once this resolves, your child should settle into a new sleep pattern. "If you notice your child’s regression is going longer than this and you are unclear about why it’s happening, it’s a good idea to check in with your pediatrician to ensure there’s no other reason their sleep is being disrupted," says Dr. Mysore. Try not to be discouraged if sleep regression happens more than once. As your child grows their sleep patterns will continue to change, especially during the early years.

What Age Do Babies Have Sleep Regression?

Sleep regression can be predictable—it tends to happen at certain developmental milestones in your baby’s life. These are the ages at which sleep regression is most likely to occur.

4-Month Sleep Regression

At this age, your baby is undergoing several developmental changes as well as adjusting to a new sleeping pattern. Younger babies need an average of 14 to 17 hours, but from 4 to 11 months, they should get between 12 to 15 hours of sleep. This is also when your baby is developing a circadian rhythm, which means they are more prone to waking up. Many parents report that this is the most difficult sleep regression to go through.

8-Month Sleep Regression

Now, your baby is increasing both their cognitive and physical abilities. They've probably started crawling or even trying to stand on their own, as well as copying gestures or expanding problem-solving skills. This growth is thought to be the culprit for sleep regression at this age.

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12-Month Sleep Regression

Your baby turning one is a pretty big deal—for both of you! At this age, your baby is the most active you’ve ever seen them. Being able to walk and talk opens them up to a whole new world. Their curiosity will be at an all-time high; they're exploring the world around them and expanding their understanding. Adjusting to these developments is likely causing their sleep regression.

18-Month Sleep Regression

When your baby turns 18 months, they likely about to start teething. This very uncomfortable process is often a cause of sleep regression. Your child is also more restless, active, and likely to resist bedtime and naptime.

It’s important to remember that every baby is different. While these are the ages sleep regression typically occurs, you might notice your child regressing outside of these ages. This is normal! If you are ever concerned, you can speak with your child's healthcare provider.

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How To Help Your Baby Through It

Sleep regression is a temporary condition. The best way to manage it is to make your baby as comfortable as they can be as they go through the process. It’s especially important not to deviate from their regular sleep routine. Maintain your baby’s sleep routine until they fall back into their usual patterns.

Remember that sleep regression is simply a change from your baby’s regular sleeping pattern, and is nothing to worry about. “Dealing with sleep regression can be very hard and exhausting so parents need to be patient with themselves," says Dr. Mysore. "Sometimes sleep regression can last up to three weeks. If that’s happening you should check in with your pediatrician." Here are some other useful tips to consider:

  • Make changes as needed. Adjust your child’s sleep routine as their sleep patterns adjust. This might mean shorter naps or later bedtimes. While this might seem counterintuitive, it can help your child sleep soundly through the night without waking up.
  • Stick to a strict routine. This can help your baby adjust to their new sleep patterns. “Don’t make any big changes, like dropping a nap," says Jilly Blakenship, a baby sleep consultant, and neonatal nurse. "This will help them bounce back as soon as it passes. Avoid creating new sleep crutches, like co-sleeping or rocking to sleep. Otherwise, you’ll have more to un-do once the regression is over."
  • Put your baby to bed while they are drowsy. This will help your baby to learn how to fall asleep on their own in their beds.
  • Limit screen time. Studies show that exposure to screens, especially shortly before bedtime, can suppress melatonin, a hormone in the brain that regulates how we sleep.

A Word from Verywell

Sleep regression can be hard on both you and your baby, but take heart in that it will eventually pass. It can happen several times throughout your baby's growth; this is normal. If you are concerned about your child's sleep or need guidance on handling sleepless nights, you can always speak with your child's healthcare provider.

FAQs

What should you not do during sleep regression? ›

What should you not do during sleep regression?
  • Don't adjust your bedtime routine.
  • Don't create new sleep crutches, such as letting them sleep in your bed or rocking them back to sleep.
  • Don't punish them.
  • Don't panic – this is a temporary set-back and things will return to normal soon.
Jun 20, 2022

What triggers a sleep regression? ›

The most common cause of sleep regression is your child hitting a developmental milestone. Some other common causes of sleep regression include: Illness: When your child is sick they are often uncomfortable and restless. This will affect the quality of their sleep, sometimes causing it to regress.

How long does sleep regression last? ›

How long does sleep regression last? Baby sleep regressions usually last about two to four weeks — the time for your little one to get used to a new routine or milestone or to recover from an illness — although the exact duration depends on the cause and can vary from baby to baby.

What are the stages of sleep regression? ›

While there is not much published research on infant sleep regressions, the general consensus among sleep specialists is that there are roughly six stages: when the baby is 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 2 years old.

Should I let my baby cry it out during a sleep regression? ›

During a sleep regression, your baby is undergoing very important changes and reaching developmental milestones. If you believe she would benefit from the CIO approach during the period, you can certainly let her cry, and if you prefer to wait until a period when her sleep habits are more predictable, you can wait.

How do you break sleep regression? ›

What to Do: How parents can help
  1. Slowly break sleep associations. ...
  2. Use lightly weighted sleepwear. ...
  3. Feed as much as needed. ...
  4. Black out the nursery. ...
  5. Put baby down drowsy, but awake. ...
  6. Keep it quiet. ...
  7. Stick to your routine. ...
  8. Adjust baby's bedtime.
Jan 8, 2022

Should I ignore sleep regression? ›

Remind Yourself This WILL End

It's important to remember that this is just a growth spurt for your baby. Your schedule will normalize again, and you (and your baby) will sleep again. Most sleep regressions last between two and six weeks. Anything longer, and you're probably dealing with a separate issue.

What is the most common sleep regression? ›

The most common sleep regression ages are 4 months, 8 months, and 18 months. The 8 month sleep regression is also sometimes referred to as the 9 month sleep regression, as it can happen anytime between 8 and 10 months old. Typically these ages align with big milestones that cause sleep setbacks.

What age is common for sleep regression? ›

Sleep regressions can occur at any age, including 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, 18 months and 2 years. The 12-month sleep regression occurs at or near baby's first birthday, though some children begin regressing at 10 or 11 months.

Do babies sleep better after sleep regression? ›

Sleep regressions typically last 2 - 6 weeks. Improving sleep after the 4 month regression depends on how quickly a baby is able to develop healthy sleep habits and be physiologically ready to link sleep cycles on their own.

Does sleep regression fix itself? ›

But they do end. Provided you stay consistent with your baby's bedtime routine and take steps to avoid forming any potentially bad habits (more on that below), the 4-month sleep regression should end on its own in about two weeks or less.

What do babies do during sleep regression? ›

Baby sleep regression refers to a disruption in a newborn's sleep patterns. It occurs at various stages of growth and development and can differ from child to child. A baby that was sleeping soundly but suddenly begins to wake and grow fussy during the night is likely experiencing a sleep regression.

How many hours do babies sleep during sleep regression? ›

This starts to change at around three months when a baby's sleep starts to consolidate, meaning that they start to sleep for longer periods at a time. While multiple naps are still the norm, they may have longer nighttime sleep sessions and sleep fewer total hours (closer to 14-15 hours per day).

What night is the hardest when sleep training? ›

He says for most methods of extinction-based sleep training, including the Ferber method, babies usually cry the hardest on the second or third night. This is referred to as an extinction burst, and it's often when many parents give up on the method.

Is it OK to let a baby cry for an hour? ›

Crying it out

It's OK to let your baby cry if the baby doesn't seem sick and you've tried everything to soothe your baby.

Do babies fight sleep during regression? ›

A sleep regression is a period when a baby who has been sleeping well (or at least well enough) experiences poor sleep. Sleep regressions can include shorter naps, extreme fussiness at nap or bedtime, fighting sleep, and frequent waking at night.

How can I help my child with sleep regression? ›

More tips
  1. Keep your bedtime routine manageable. Focus on including activities that calm your toddler.
  2. Avoid screens of all kinds for at least an hour before bedtime. ...
  3. If you are co-parenting with another adult, take turns managing bedtime duties.
  4. Remember that this, too, is temporary.
Apr 17, 2020

Do you sleep train during sleep regression? ›

Can you sleep train during the 4-month sleep regression? Even though your baby frequently wakes at night or takes short naps during the day, sleep training is possible during a 4-month sleep regression. Be flexible and try to soothe your baby at night and keep them active during the day.

Should you co sleep during sleep regression? ›

If your baby usually sleeps in a crib— bringing them into your bed can seem like an easy fix during a sleep regression. It turns out that even occasional co-sleeping can actually result in you getting even less sleep.

What is the hardest sleep regression? ›

THE 4-MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION

Possibly the worst, and most unavoidable. This regression is characterized by your baby waking every 2-3 hours at night, similar to those first few weeks at home as a newborn.

What should I avoid during 4-month sleep regression? ›

What can you do now to avoid the 4-month sleep regression?
  • Stop patting, rocking, holding and feeding to sleep at 3 months.
  • Practice putting the baby to sleep fully awake, in the cot, at 2-3 months.
  • If using a dummy avoid using it for all settling and avoid using in the night.
  • Teach baby to roll over in her cot in the day.

How to teach a baby to self soothe during sleep regression? ›

You can help your baby learn to self-soothe by establishing a consistent bedtime routine. This can include activities such as a warm bath, gentle massage, and soothing music or white noise. Consistency is key, as it helps your baby know what to expect and can cue their body that it is time to sleep.

What is the fastest way to pass the 4 month sleep regression? ›

Managing the 4-month sleep regression
  1. Give your baby time to practice during the day. ...
  2. Fully feed your baby during the day. ...
  3. Introduce 'drowsy but awake' ...
  4. Keep the room dark. ...
  5. Establish a bedtime routine. ...
  6. Adjust your own routine. ...
  7. Make it quick. ...
  8. Pay attention to sleep cues and act quickly.

Should you let baby cry it out during 4 month sleep regression? ›

If your baby is waking more frequently in the night because of the 4 month sleep regression and fussing or whining, it's okay to give them space until they become distressed. They may just show you that they can go back down on their own!

What week is most common for 4 month sleep regression? ›

Baby is 13-22 weeks old

Your baby might be going through the 4-month sleep regression if they are between 13-22 weeks old. Gone are the days that baby can sleep through anything, feed on demand without messing up their nights, and go down quietly for every nap.

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