8 month sleep regression: What causes it and what to do
As a parent, it can seem like there’s a new potential regression around every corner. If out of nowhere, your normally easy-sleeping 8 month old has changed their usual pattern, this sleep regression is the likely culprit. Once you know what to expect during this phase, you’ll find that there’s nothing to fear about this possible bump in the road.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
What is the 8 month sleep regression?
Let's talk sleep regression ages. The 8 month regression typically occurs between 7 and 10 months (not to be mistaken for the 6 month sleep regression) and is also known as the 9 month sleep regression. It’s a temporary phase that’s often characterized by difficulty getting to sleep and increased night wakings (with time spent awake at night often lasting for long periods).
The change in sleep patterns means you may find that your 8 month old is not sleeping well, or your typical bedtime routines no longer produce the same results. For example, a baby who is usually rocked and held to sleep may no longer fall asleep after just 5 - 10 minutes of rocking. Or, a baby that typically falls asleep on their own without help will suddenly protest when they’re put down awake in their crib.
Why does the 8 month regression happen?
Contrary to common belief, all babies don't experience sleep regressions at specific ages. However, we do observe predictable sleep pattern shifts within particular age ranges that can affect many children. There are a few factors that typically cause sleep difficulties between 7 - 10 months, including:
1. Growing out of the 3-nap wake windows
By 7 months old, your baby will start to need more awake time in between sleep periods in order to feel tired enough to sleep. This leads many babies to resist and/or skip the third nap of the day (despite our best efforts!), causing them to go to bed in an overtired state. Even babies that have fully transitioned to 2 naps can find it difficult to stay awake for longer periods at first.
Overtiredness, in turn, can contribute to more difficulty falling asleep at bedtime and disrupted sleep throughout the night. Not ideal for a good night’s sleep!
2. Separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is a normal and healthy part of development as your child’s understanding of the world matures. But when it occurs naturally between 6 months and the first birthday, it can make it harder for your baby to go to sleep without a parent nearby. Whether a child stays at home with a parent or goes to a caregiver outside of the home, it’s typical and appropriate to go through periods of separation anxiety. It’s quite common for children in this age group, in particular, to experience anxiety when parting from their parent — even at bedtime.
3. Greater mobility
It’s incredibly exciting to see your baby start to become more mobile, whether they’re sitting up on their own or pulling up to stand. However, the achievement of these developmental milestones can also mean that a baby is less content to fall asleep peacefully in their crib. It can be much more exciting to try out their new motor skills at bedtime — and in the middle of the night!
Teething is also very common at this age, which can, unfortunately, lead to varying degrees of discomfort. If you have a fussy baby at night that’s 8 months old, teething may be a contributing factor. It’s easy to understand that it may be harder for a baby to sleep when they’re in pain from an emerging tooth.
How long does the 8 month sleep regression last?
Keep in mind that, regardless of which factors are impacting your child’s sleep, they’re all temporary situations. Your 8 month old may refuse to sleep right now, but your baby will soon settle into a 2-nap schedule, get past this bout of separation anxiety, become used to their newfound mobility, and those troublesome teeth will emerge!
When does it start?
This regression can start causing sleep disruptions around 7 - 9 months old. 8 month sleep regression signs include fighting sleep and increased night wakings.
When does it end?
Sleep regressions typically last for 2 - 6 weeks, meaning babies older than 10 months should be past the regression. Sleep often improves once babies adjust to longer wake windows and can make it to bedtime without becoming overtired while following a 2-nap schedule.
However, it's also common to see families form new habits during this period to cope with this phase — which often have the potential to disrupt sleep for longer periods. For example, if a child used to fall asleep without help but begins to be rocked to sleep at bedtime, this can lead to increased night waking in many cases. In order to improve sleep, it can be helpful to reset a baby's expectations at bedtime.
My 8 month old won’t nap: Does the 8 month regression affect naps?
Yes, some babies will have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep for naptime. This means you may see some short or skipped naps. It’s common to see babies have 3 naps one day and 2 naps the next day during this transition. You may find that your baby will alternate between the 3-nap and 2-nap schedules for a few weeks until they fully adjust to staying awake for longer periods of time.
6 tips to handle 8 month old sleep regression like an expert
We recognize that 2 - 6 weeks of sleep disruption probably sounds like a lifetime to those of you Googling this at 3 AM. Consider these helpful tips to get through sleep regression, but know that this is a normal phase that your family will soon be past.
1. Offer additional comfort as needed.
You may feel the need to offer additional comfort if your baby has trouble sleeping during this time. However, be aware that if you start a new routine with more parental help, this can develop into lasting habits that can often negatively impact sleep beyond this naturally occurring phase.
For example, if your baby typically falls asleep without your help, you might consider patting or rocking them a bit longer during their bedtime routine to help them settle down. But if you start rocking or patting them all the way to sleep, this can develop into a new habit and cause sleep disruptions apart from the sleep regression.
2. Follow age-appropriate wake windows.
Aim to get your baby to bed before they become overtired, as that will reduce nighttime awakenings. Depending on your baby’s age and the time of day, they’ll likely need 2 - 3.5 hours of awake time between sleep periods.
3. Consider sleep training.
Strengthening and/or maintaining independent sleeping skills as much as possible can limit the impact the regression can have on sleep. If you help your baby to fall asleep, this may be contributing to increased night wakings and short naps. Helping your baby learn to fall asleep with less help often improves the quantity and quality of sleep, especially if they’re experiencing a sleep regression at around 8 months of age. We typically recommend a gradual method to sleep train rather than Ferber or “cry-it-out.”
4. Don’t rush to drop the third nap.
Rather than drop the third nap completely at the first sign of nap resistance, it can be helpful to offer a 3-nap schedule every few days to help your baby “reset.” This can often make the adjustment to a 2-nap schedule more manageable. Once your baby is 8 - 9 months old and able to comfortably stay awake for longer periods, you can stop offering the third nap.
5. Offer practice time for new skills.
If your baby has started to become more mobile, chances are they’ll want to practice their new skills when they’re supposed to be sleeping. Be sure to give your baby plenty of time to practice sitting and standing in a safe space during awake times, so it’s less exciting for them to do so when they get to their crib.
6. Give your baby space to wind down.
Even when you offer extra practice time during the day, chances are that your baby will still want to occasionally play at naptime or bedtime. This is very common and developmentally appropriate. If your baby is playing instead of sleeping, we recommend implementing a bedtime routine that gives them some time and space to wind down on their own. Waiting 10 minutes or so in between attempts to resettle your baby into a sleeping position can be more effective than continually laying them down, only to have them pop right up again.
8 month sleep regression FAQ
Q: Is the 8 month sleep regression a myth?
It’s common for babies around the age of 8 months to start suddenly experiencing new sleep challenges. We refer to this as the “8 month sleep regression.”
Q: Do all babies have sleep regressions at 8 months?
Every baby has different 8 month sleep regression experiences — with some babies skipping it entirely! Whether a baby continues to sleep well at this age depends on numerous factors, including their schedule and whether they’ve formed strong independent sleeping skills. If your 8 month old isn’t sleeping through the night, there are a few different things that could be going on, and it isn’t necessarily due to a sleep regression.
Q: Can the 8 month sleep regression start early?
Yes, we often see 7 month old sleep regressions, as it’s very common for babies to start resisting and/or skipping naps at this age. These nap troubles can lead to some difficulty falling asleep at bedtime and disrupted night sleep.
Q: Do 7 month, 9 month or 10 month sleep regressions exist as well?
We consider new sleep issues in the 7 - 10 month age range to be part of the 8 month sleep regression.
Q: Why is my 8 month old baby not sleeping?
Is your 8 month old fighting sleep, waking up at night crying, or restless at night? It may be due to a number of factors. The most common causes of sleep disruptions at this age include teething, the mastering of emotional and physical milestones, the need for a schedule change, hunger, a parent-led sleep association, or any combination of these. While many babies sleep well after being fully night-weaned at this age, some babies may continue to maintain 1 - 2 night feedings.
Q: 8 month old baby won't sleep unless held. What should I do?
With time and consistency, your baby can learn a new way of falling asleep. We recommend a step-by-step process in most cases to gradually move away from holding your baby to sleep. It can be easiest and most effective to make changes in sleep habits by starting with bedtime only.
Q: My 8 month old baby never had a sleep regression. Is this normal?
Yes! There’s a range of what constitutes “normal” when it comes to baby sleep. Some babies continue to have the same quality of sleep during the 7- to 10-month age range, and their sleep does not regress during this period. Not every 8 month old will fight sleep.
Q: Why is my 8 month old baby so fussy at sleep times?
There are a number of reasons why a baby may be cranky at naptime or bedtime. Overtiredness (when a baby stays awake too long) and teething are common causes of upset. Growth spurts can also lead to increased hunger and fussiness. The onset of separation anxiety can play a role. But this is typically just a phase, and how the difficulty is handled will make the difference in how and when it resolves.
Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.