Baby sleep regression ages: Causes, charts, monthsUpdated Nov 21, 2022
Wondering why your baby’s sleep has suddenly changed? Maybe it’s a sleep regression, or maybe it's more of a sleep bump. Read on for our breakdown of the most common sleep-related pitfalls (and solutions) during the first two years so you can handle anything that comes your way.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
What is a sleep regression?
We define a “sleep regression” as a sudden and significant decline in sleep patterns. For instance, a toddler who starts waking a lot during the night after previously sleeping well on their own would be going through a sleep regression. Likewise, a baby who abruptly stops napping for a week or two would be going through a sleep regression. Some resources have parents convinced that chaos will ensue at predetermined ages, but sleep is impacted by so many factors that it’s a bit more complicated than that.
What causes sleep regressions in babies?
When sleep suddenly gets worse, these are the most common contributing factors:
Neurodevelopmental maturation (e.g., the “4 month sleep regression”)
The need for a schedule adjustment
Travel or other change in routine
Milestone mastery (such as crawling, sitting, standing)
Do all babies have sleep regressions?
Despite common belief, there’s no reliable scientific evidence to support the idea that every baby undergoes a regression in sleep at a given age.
That said, we do see certain patterns within particular age ranges that tend to negatively impact sleep for many children. While we refer to these as “regressions” we tend to think of them as predictable shifts in sleep patterns. Read on for a list of typical sleep regressions by age.
How long do sleep regressions last?
How long will your baby’s sleep patterns be disrupted? That depends on the cause, as well as the strategies used to improve sleep. A 4 month old who is rocked to sleep and suddenly starts frequently waking during the night may continue to see this pattern until they learn to fall asleep independently at bedtime (which could be a week, or months depending on a variety of factors). Whereas a child who has a setback due to an illness may start sleeping better within a week of feeling better.
Common sleep regressions ages
Around 3 - 4 months old, an infant’s sleep matures. Suddenly they’re sleeping in stages and cycles, similar to an adult. How much this developmental change will impact your baby's sleep depends in part on how they fall asleep.
If a baby has already started to learn the skill of falling asleep without parental assistance (i.e. they are put into their crib while they are still awake and drift off to sleep without being helped), this shift in sleep cycles may not impact your child’s sleep much at all.
On the other hand, if your child (like many babies in this age group) is fed, rocked, or otherwise helped to sleep, you’re more likely to see an increase in night wakings and short naps.
Between 7-10 months, babies begin to become more mobile, cut teeth, and transition to two naps. Separation anxiety also often peaks at this age.
Children who used to lay down at bedtime and peacefully fall asleep are suddenly standing up and reaching for their parents, refusing to follow the bedtime routine that used to work so well.
We also see a lot of overtiredness, as a result of this nap transition. Dropping that third nap often temporarily results in difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at bedtime.
When toddlers reach 14 - 18 months old, we see another round of developmental milestones that typically impact sleep. Children go through another nap transition (hello one nap in the middle of the day) which can cause overtiredness as children adjust to staying awake for longer periods.
What makes this period particularly challenging, however, is that children start to test boundaries and seek independence. “No” may become your toddler’s new favorite word.
Bedtime can become much more challenging when your child no longer goes along with your sleep plan and experiments with their own ideas.
The main sleep issues plaguing parents of two year olds? Nap strikes and stalling at bedtime.
At this age, many children need longer periods of awake time in order to be sufficiently tired for sleep. That means that toddlers are less likely to settle at naps and bedtime when they’re offered too early. Couple that with their continued interest in pushing limits and seeking autonomy and bedtime often becomes a battle of wills.
Two year molars coming in can also make things tough for toddlers who aren’t very interested in sleeping anyway.
It’s important to note that sleep can also be impacted when a baby is mastering a milestone. We’re thinking specifically about rolling, sitting, walking, and other physical feats. Since babies can perfect these skills at different ages, you may find that your child’s sleep regresses outside of the aforementioned age groups.
External sleep regression stages
Nap transitions and rapid brain development can cause predictable bumps in your child’s sleep journey. However, they aren’t the only foreseeable causes of sudden sleep issues.
We often see changes in sleep habits after a child gets sick, travels, or experiences a big change (such as a move, the birth of a sibling, or potty training). It’s common for children to need more comfort during these times. While it’s understandable (and encouraged!) to offer additional comfort as needed, it’s at these times that parents often stray from their typical routines in order to help their child sleep.
What are the signs of a sleep regression?
New and significant changes in sleeping habits can signal a sleep regression. These sudden shifts can impact both day and night sleep. Here are the most common signs your baby or toddler is in the midst of a sleep regression:
|Night sleep||Day sleep|
|Trouble falling asleep at bedtime||Shorter naps|
|Increased night waking||Nap resistance|
|Waking very early in the morning||Skipped naps|
6 Tips to handle your baby sleep regressions
1. Reevaluate day sleep
As children develop, their sleep needs evolve. Since many of the sleep issues that are common during a regression can be caused by the wrong number of naps, targeting an optimal number of naps can help ensure that sleep issues aren’t exacerbated by too little or too much day sleep.
Consult the chart below to help determine whether your baby is taking the right amount of naps for their age.
|Age||Typical number of daily naps|
|Newborns||4 - 6+ naps per day|
|3 months||3 - 5 naps per day|
|4 - 5 months||3 - 4 naps per day|
|6 months||3 naps per day|
|7 - 9 months||2 - 3 naps per day|
|10 - 13 months||2 naps per day|
|14 - 18 months||1 - 2 naps per day|
|19 - 35 months||1 nap per day|
2. Find the right schedule
Scheduling issues can lead to a host of sleep troubles during the day and at night. Beyond determining whether your child needs to add or drop a nap, it’s also important to ensure your child is following an age-appropriate schedule. This will help limit many sleep concerns caused by mistimed naps and bedtime. Sometimes it’s as simple as adjusting bedtime earlier after dropping a nap.
Find optimal nap and bedtimes for your child with Huckleberry’s SweetSpot® sleep predictor. You can also toggle between the number of naps on a given day if your child is in the midst of a nap transition.
3. Be patient
Try not to be discouraged if your baby spends all of the naptime cruising in their crib. In cases where a baby is mastering a milestone, it’s common for children to want to practice their new skills when they should be sleeping. Some patience will be required - it can take a few weeks before the skill is mastered and no longer directly impedes sleep. Giving your baby plenty of practice time during the day can help reduce the amount of practice that takes place at night.
4. Consider sleep training
When children fall asleep with parental help, this creates a sleep onset association, which often leads to frequent night waking and shortened sleep. Helping your child learn to fall asleep independently when it’s developmentally appropriate is sometimes the most important step in improving sleep.
If you’ve been helping your baby fall asleep, but it’s no longer working well for your family, then consider helping your child learn to fall asleep with fewer parental interventions. Note that if your child is in the midst of a nap transition or mastering a milestone, we recommend giving them a bit of time to adjust. Similarly, we wouldn’t recommend starting to sleep train while your baby is in discomfort from sickness or teething.
5. Reset expectations
Since children often need more comfort at sleep times when they’re going through a nap transition or developmental milestone, it’s common for parents to start offering more help at bedtime. For instance, your baby may go from laying down peacefully at night, to standing until they’re rocked to sleep. While this may help in the short term, it can lead to sleep disruptions even after a baby has adjusted to a new schedule or mastered that milestone.
In these cases, that temporary help may have changed your baby’s expectations. It’s understandable that a child would cry and be confused when their parent stops offering this new help. In these cases, we recommend re-setting your child’s expectations by staying consistent and ensuring they learn to fall asleep independently once again. Think of it as a refresher course in sleep training. It should only take a day or two to get back on track if your baby already knows how to fall asleep on their own.
6. Expert guidance
The first few years of a child’s life can be incredibly exciting and astonishingly challenging all at once! Since figuring out the causes and solutions to sleep issues can be tricky, Huckleberry Premium was created to make sleep consultations for children more affordable for families. We take into consideration each family’s individual lifestyle and specific sleep goals when working to create a successful sleep plan. If you’re interested in more personalized analysis and guidance for your child, sign up for Huckleberry Premium
Developmental changes can cause sleep regressions and temporary sleep bumps, even when parents do everything “right.” However, maintaining healthy sleep habits can lessen the impact and longevity of a sleep regression.
Offer additional comfort at sleep times, as needed. If your child’s having difficulty falling asleep due to their stage of development, it can be extra challenging to stick to your normal routines. The less “extra” help you offer during this time, the faster you’ll be able to return to your typical sleep patterns. Once your child’s adjusted to staying awake longer after dropping a nap or has mastered that milestone, you can focus on getting back on track. If you’ve been offering extra help at sleep times that you no longer wish to continue, it will take some time for your child to readjust to receiving less help.
FAQ about common baby sleep regressions
Q: Can teething cause sleep regression?
Yes, discomfort from teething or sickness can throw your baby’s sleep routines off. Expect that sleep may be bumpy for a bit until your baby feels better. Returning to your typical routine as soon as possible after the discomfort has passed will minimize the impact on your baby’s sleep.
Q: At what age do sleep regressions occur?
While a sleep regression can occur at any age, common child sleep regression stages occur at 4 months, 8 months, 18 months, and 2 years old.
Q: My baby never had sleep regression. Is it normal?
There’s a wide range of normal when it comes to baby sleep. Some babies won’t have a significant change in sleep during common sleep regression periods, which is perfectly fine.
Q: Why has my baby stopped sleeping through the night?
There are many factors that affect your baby’s sleep. Night waking is most commonly caused by sleep onset associations (helping your baby fall asleep at night), hunger, and schedule issues, such as overtiredness.
Q: How long does sleep regression last in toddlers?
Toddler sleep regressions often last a few weeks. Following an age-appropriate schedule and focusing on independent sleeping skills can help get your toddler’s sleep back on track sooner rather than later.
Q: Can you avoid baby sleep regression?
While there’s no guarantee that you can avoid a child's sleep regression altogether, following an age-appropriate schedule and maintaining healthy sleep habits can help minimize the impact developmental stages have on sleep.
Q: Are there other typical baby sleep regression ages?
It’s not uncommon to see a nap regression around 12 months of age. This might mean fighting sleep at naptime or skipping naps. This typically means that your baby needs to lengthen the amount of awake time in between naps, rather than drop a nap altogether.
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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.