Sleep regressions can be incredibly frustrating. Your baby seems to be sleeping well and then, all of a sudden, they’re waking night after night. In addition to disrupting your sleep, sleep regressions are troubling because sleep is so vital to your baby’s development, and you want to make sure they’re getting the downtime they need to grow up healthy.
Remember that sleep regressions are a normal part of development and typically pass within a few weeks. Stay patient, consistent, and responsive to your baby's needs, and you'll both come through this phase successfully.
We understand dealing with sleeplessness isn’t easy. Thankfully there are tools out there to help - for example, the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. Co-developed with sleep experts, this revolutionary, easy-to-use app offers a range of tools and techniques to help any parent quickly get their baby’s sleep back on track, day or night.
In this article, we’ll provide you with comprehensive information on navigating through sleep regressions for babies and toddlers, helping you come out on the other side successfully!
Sleep regressions, in a nutshell
Sleep regressions are temporary periods during which your child experiences a disruption in their established sleep patterns. A sleep regression typically lasts 2 to 6 weeks and often results in more frequent awakenings, increased difficulty in falling asleep, and overall restlessness.
While sleep regressions are not identical to growth spurts, they often align with these periods of rapid growth and other significant developmental milestones. It's important to note that sleep regressions can emerge and recur throughout your child's first two years at various stages, the most common ones being 4 months, 8-10 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 24 months.
Understanding these important milestones and when they happen can help you anticipate sleep regressions, and prepare for them in the right way.
How to Cope with Sleep Regressions
Stick to a Routine
Bedtime routines are a cornerstone of any sleep training practice – these quiet moments both calm your baby and help instill strong sleep habits – and can be incredibly effective at reducing sleep regressions.
Remember that it is beneficial at any stage of your baby’s development, so if you already have a routine in place, it's essential to maintain consistency during sleep regressions, and if you don’t it’s never too late to start!
Simply sticking to your regular bedtime routine during sleep regression spells help realign your baby’s sleep – that’s the power of habit, after all! A pre-naptime and pre-bedtime routine helps signal to your baby that it's time to relax and prepare for sleep, fostering a sense of security and familiarity that can make it easier for them to settle down.
Note: whether your routine includes singing to your baby or reading to them before bed, keep in mind it may take a bit longer for your baby to settle and fall asleep during sleep regressions, but, again, they will pass.
Also, sticking with your usual routines will help ensure a smooth return to your baby’s regular sleep schedule when the sleep regression is over.
Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment
A quiet, relaxing room will help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep; this is especially helpful when you’re up against a dreaded sleep regression (like the 4-month sleep regression ) and your baby may appear to be fighting sleep or waking more frequently.
There are three very easy things you can do to create a nurturing sleep environment for your baby:
- Embrace Darkness: Your baby’s sleep is regulated by their circadian rhythm, a natural process that wakes them and puts them back to bed. This process is in part regulated by light.
With that in mind, even a little daylight can disrupt your baby’s sleep naps or cause early wake ups (especially during the lighter months of the year), so we recommend using black out curtains that block out any and all light.
- Machines: White noise blocks out outside noise or sudden noises and mimics the womb, which can calm your baby during sleep regressions.
- Keep it Cool: Studies consistently show that babies – and adults – sleep best in rooms that are 68-72°F. Keeping your little one’s room in this optimal range is ideal to foster sleep.
Provide Daytime Stimulation
You know the phrase “All tuckered out…” Well, it’s true - making sure your baby has plenty of time to play and engage during the day can help them sleep better at night .
Whether it’s going to the zoo to see all the animals, a play date with little friends (helps you get some adult conversation too), or just a trip around the block, you want to make sure your baby is out there, using up their energy and learning about the world.
You also want to make sure to use daytime to grow their skills. For example, if your baby is learning to crawl, help your baby work on this during the day by providing enough time and space on the floor and putting items they want, just out of their reach.
Keeping your baby stimulated during the day gives them a balance of activity, daylight and ideally fresh air – all of which are factors in ensuring they are ready for sleep.
Note: It’s also important to take quiet time before bed to make sure your baby isn’t overstimulated, which would have the opposite effect. That said, save some soothing quiet time that’s sensorially minimal before your bedtime or nap routine.
Learn Your Baby’s Sleep Cues
Understanding your baby’s sleepy cues is an incredibly effective way to ensure you put them down to sleep when they are actually tired, that’s because they “cue” you they are ready for sleep. Avoid putting your little one to bed when they're already overtired and upset, as an overly tired baby may struggle more to fall asleep.
These cues are your baby’s natural way of telling you they need to rest, physically and mentally. Signs your baby is tired include:
- Rubbing their eyes
- Pulling their ears
- Turning away from you/avoiding eye contact
Since your baby may be more tired than usual during a sleep regression, watching for their sleepy cues might help you make helpful shifts to their schedule, such as moving bedtime earlier, or maybe offering an extra nap – as and when your baby needs it.
Keeping them awake beyond the point your baby shows sleepy cues can lead to overtiredness, which will make it even harder for them to fall asleep at the next nap or bedtime.
Top tip: Sleepy cues are super helpful when you’re managing nap transitions , since naps get a little disrupted during the change, following your baby’s sleepy cues can help you keep sleeps in line with their biological rhythms and ensure that important daytime sleep still happens.
Consider Nap Transitions:
After growing past the disorganized newborn sleep stage, by around 4-months your baby will likely take 3 naps a day, this schedule will last until around the 7-month mark when they will drop that 3 rd catnap in the afternoon and settle into a 2-nap schedule, morning and afternoon.
At that point, it’s time to start thinking about nap transitions – reducing their daytime sleeps to help lengthen and strengthen nighttime sleeps.
Tools like the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ will automatically update your baby’s sleep schedule to help you navigate nap transitions smoothly – minimizing disruption to everyone’s sleep.
Practice Self Care:
Remember, your well-being matters here, too.
When your baby loses sleep, you lose sleep, making it harder to juggle your daily routine and manage to parent. That said, whenever possible, enlist some family or friends as babysitters so you can take a moment to rejuvenate.
Whether you have help or not, remember to rest when your baby rests. Yes, that’s a perfect time to do chores or work, but it’s far more important for your baby, and yourself, that you’re feeling as fully charged as possible.
And, yes, you can even take these moments while your baby is awake – simply put them in a safe space and take a moment to yourself. This is perfectly alright, understandable, and, frankly, sometimes necessary.
Your Baby is Making Progress: Sleep Progressions
Remember that your baby is going through important developmental stages. Instead of regressions, think of these phases as sleep progressions. Yes, this can be a challenging period, but it’s also so exciting: your baby is learning new skills, growing, and, wow, their little personality is starting to truly shine!
You Are Not Alone
Another thing to keep in mind – you are not alone in this. Every single parent and baby experiences sleep regressions. They are normal growth experiences. If you’re feeling isolated or frustrated or simply overwhelmed, reach out to friends, family, and other parents for advice. Honestly, sometimes just saying, “I am frustrated” can itself relieve frustration.
We’re Here to Help
Morning, noon, or night, the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ is there to support you through this, and future, sleep regressions to help you quickly and easily get your baby’s sleep back on track.
One last note: You’re a loving caretaker and you’re doing great. Just by being here, reading about how to best care for your little one – that is love. Just keep on caring for your baby – and yourself – and you’ll be amazed at how much you both grow, physically and emotionally, too!
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.
“Association between delayed bedtime and sleep-related problems among community-dwelling 2-year-old children in Japan,” Journal of Physiological Anthropology .
“Sleep of 4-month-old infants: bedtime, night waking and sleep problems,” Institute of Behavioral Health .
“2022 Updated Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment,” The American Academy of Pediatrics .