Sleep regression, and why you return to sleepless nights

17 August, 2020 / Mateusz

Has your baby suddenly stopped sleeping the way he used to? Sudden changes in a baby’s sleep are often caused by the acquisition of new skills at a given stage, i.e. development leaps. How can you recognize sleep regression and deal with it effectively?

According to specialists, sleep regression is the temporary deterioration of a child’s sleep, resulting in the possibility of sleep disorders. They usually last from a few days to several weeks and go away on their own. In addition to sleep problems, regression is also accompanied by symptoms such as increased tearfulness and irritability, apathy, lack of appetite, and the need for greater closeness with parents.

Where does sleep regression come from?

The most common cause of sleep regression is a baby entering the next stage of maturation and development. Although, for example, in the first year of life a child sleeps up to 18 hours a day, during this time he may experience several periods of regression. The first usually appear in the first three months of life. Thus, sleep may be shorter then, interrupted more often, and the child may be prone to irritability. Another big developmental leap occurs around 4 months of age, and then the baby may need to be fed more often (more than 1-4 times), may wake up irregularly and have a long break in the night’s sleep. Subsequent sleep regressions may occur between 8 and 10 months of age and between 10 and 12 months of age when the child begins to move independently.

Despite the fact that developmental leaps with sleep regression take place until the age of 1, parents also note similar patterns later. They are most often referred to at around 18 months, then around 2 years of age and in 4-year-olds.

Sleep regression in children of different ages – how to deal with it?

Newborns

Although the sleep disturbances in the developmental leap vary depending on the individual characteristics of the child, it certainly does not hurt to try proven methods. For a child up to 12 weeks old, rocking, hugging, turning on steady sounds or using a dummy will help.

Child up to 4 months old

Up to six-months-old, the baby’s need for closeness can be supplemented with toys – soft stuffed animals, cuddly toys, which will “protect” the feeling of security immediately after waking up suddenly. Of course, cuddling is the optimal solution.

Child up to 8 months old

At this stage, parents may have problems with their baby developing separation anxiety. Then the ideal solution for the child, but perhaps not the parents, is falling asleep together in the same bed. Remember that, contrary to popular opinion, this is generally a short term fix, and this will not become a habit for the child.

Child around 1 year old

At this age, children understand successive sequences and begin to get used to them, so at this stage, you should introduce the so-called “sleep rituals”. For example, you can start with a bath, then do a massage, put on pyjamas, then read fairy tales, hug, sing lullabies and only then try to put your child to sleep.  Consistency is extremely important in these sleep rituals.

Older children, over 2 years old

During this stage, the most important thing is to calmly listen to the toddler’s needs. If he doesn’t want to sleep, it’s worth letting him play, if he wants a snack, then give him a snack – after all, the idea is not to force the baby to fall asleep during sleep regression. While this may be difficult for a parent, it is important to remember that if the child does not want to, he will not fall asleep. At this time, you can also introduce an extremely effective sensory blanket, which regulates the baby’s nervous system, calms him down and helps in achieving healthy, deep sleep.