Just when you thought you had your little one’s sleep routine down, your baby or toddler throws a wrench (or bottle!) in it. Suddenly, they are fighting naptime and waking up throughout the night. If sleep is something you were counting on, this is probably a living nightmare. Will you ever have a full night's rest again?
Don’t panic! Your child may be facing a case of sleep regression.
“Sleep regression is a term to describe a baby who previously slept well and is all of a sudden not sleeping well anymore,” said Suzanne Nielsen, MD, a pediatrician with Banner Health Center in Gilbert, AZ. “While we often hear parents concerned about sleep regression around 4 months of age, it can really happen at any time for many different reasons that are completely normal.”
The most common causes for a new onset of sleep problems include:
- Changes in routines (i.e., naptime, bedtime)
- Traveling or vacations
- Illnesses, such as a cold or ear infection
- Teething pain
- Moving from a bassinet to a crib
- Reaching a new major developmental milestone, such as learning to crawl or walk
Signs of sleep regression
While the signs of a sleep regression can vary child to child and age by age, here are some possible signs to look out for:
- Waking up frequently throughout the night
- Struggling to fall asleep
- Resisting naptime
- Fussier and crankier
How long does a sleep regression last?
Have no fear, your baby won’t have sleepless nights for too much longer. Although, you may have some sleepless nights in your future when they become a teenager!
“Usually sleep regressions only last a few days, or however long it takes to get used to a new routine, milestone or recover from an illness,” Dr. Nielsen said. “If you have concerns that your baby isn’t getting adequate sleep, if they seem sick, in pain or any other major concern, it’s a good idea to take them to the doctor to be checked out.”
Tips for managing sleep regressions in your baby or toddler
Here are some helpful tips sure to help you and your baby get more shut-eye:
- Routine, routine, routine! Babies thrive on a good routine. They are easier to calm and relax for sleep if every naptime and bedtime is the same, so they know what to expect.
- Ensure they are getting enough sleep. An overtired baby can cause problems at night.
- Read a book. Reading a few books together before going to sleep is a calming practice and great for your baby’s language development and bonding.
- Black out the room. Keep the room they sleep in dark by closing curtains or shades so no light filters through.
- Let them self-soothe, when possible. If your baby starts crying, give them a few minutes to fuss before running over to respond. Sometimes, they may self-soothe themselves back to sleep. If they don’t, enter the room, pat their head, tummy and reassure them. Try to avoid picking them up and rocking them to sleep as they can become dependent on this habit.
Call your baby’s doctor
While sleep regressions end almost as soon as they begin, contact your child’s health care provider if you have concerns or questions about their sleep or potential causes for their sleep regression. To help find a Banner Health specialist, visit bannerhealth.com.
All things baby and sleep
Check out these helpful Banner Health blog posts to help improve your child’s sleep:
- Safe Sleep Practices for Baby
- 5 Signs Your Child Has Poor Sleep and How to Help
- Is My Toddler Getting Enough Sleep Each Day?
- Nightmare or Night Terror? How to Help Your Child