What Is Sleep Regression What Is Sleep Regression

What Is Sleep Regression: 6 Essential Points You Must Know

In this article, we will discuss what is sleep regression. What are the common symptoms and treatments of sleep regression and its reason for development? Sleep regression happens anytime in the individual’s life, but mostly sleep regression occurs in babies or infants. In simple terms, newborn sleep patterns disturbance is called sleep regression.

Common sleep regression ages in infants are six months, eight-month sleep regressions, twelve months, eighteen months, and two years old. Sleep regressions generally happen or occur during the bedtime routine.

Generally, these sleep regressions are associated with the different development milestones an infant or baby experiences around those ages, including learning to sit up, walk, crawl, and do other activities. Other crucial causes of sleep regressions are depression, separation anxiety, big life changes, and anxiety1.

Sleep regression also has other names: toddler sleep regression, fighting sleep regression, and the very common baby sleep regression.

What Is Sleep Regression

Sleep regression is the disorder or condition in which the infant or any individual cannot sleep properly and have sleep problems. This individual sleep-wake cycle is completely disturbed; they fall asleep anytime and then can wake up at any time. They do not have a proper sleep schedule. Such people cannot complete as much sleep as needed in normal life.

In other words, sleep regression refers to a period when a person or toddler experiences a drastic shift in their sleeping pattern. The most common sleep regressions signs include fighting naps, bedtime routine, difficulty falling asleep, crying in most babies, night terrors, skipping naps, and one nap time.

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Photo by Minnie Zhou on Unsplash

Sleep regressions are normal for a few weeks in babies, but longer than this is harmful to any person.

You can help your child to prevent sleep regression, including night wakings, potty training, daily routine follow-up, permanent change in baby routine, avoiding traveling, extra feedings, and sleeping pattern follow-up. We will discuss prevention later on in this article.

Until now, it is unclear in any study why sleep regression or sleep problems are common in newborn babies. Most sleep regressions are notified in babies when they start learning new things and developmental milestones. Some also believe that sleep regression ages because it is the part of developmental brain changes that usually happens between two and twenty-one months. On the bases of time duration, sleep regression is divided into three major categories, the first is the 8-month sleep regression, the second is the 18-month sleep regression, and the third is the 4-month sleep regression.

Some other sleep regressions reason include.

  • Developmental milestones.

  • Baby starts waking

  • Earlier bedtime

  • Growth spurts

  • Peer-reviewed studies

  • Separation anxiety

  • Desire for independence

  • Moving from crib to bed

  • Getting a sibling

  • Sleep crutches

However, it is also seen that what looks like a sleep regression is, in reality, only sleep disruption due to certain reasons. These include growth spurts, growing pains, teething, reflux, overtired baby, and hunger. Sometimes it is also possible that sleep regression is more often related to shorter naps and white noise machines.

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Photo by Edward Go on Unsplash

1. Causes Of Sleep Regression

According to sleep associations, sleep regression has many causes. Some of the causes of sleep regression include

1.1. Growth Spurts

The growth spurts make the child or the baby more hungry or extra hungry, and due to this hunger child is unable to sleep properly at night. This hunger creates sleeping patterns disturbance.

1.2. Teething Pain

Pain while teething also causes problems in the sleeping pattern of the child. Due to pain, the baby cannot sleep properly, making the child cry all night. Along with this, it also makes the baby irritated and frustrated.

1.3. Developmental Milestone

A developmental milestone is the different activities that the newborn baby learns when their age increases, the baby learns various activities, including crawling, walking, and many more.

Due to the vigorous try and practice for achieving these milestones, the baby works hard all day, which causes pain in the body sometimes and causes trouble while sleeping.

For this, the best solution is a soothing massage every day. This makes your child comfortable and helps in reducing its pain.

1.4. Travelling

You and your partner should avoid traveling with the baby for a reason, which is why your baby is still learning to adapt to the outside environment. If you continuously change their setting, it will create many problems for your baby to adapt, which might cause sleep regression in your baby.

1.5. Illness

Illness is also one of the major causes of sleep regression. Due to certain diseases, including ear infections, fever, cough, and cold, babies cannot sleep properly.

2. Signs Of Sleep Regression

Until now, we discussed sleep regression and some of the causes of sleep regression in babies. Now let’s talk about the major signs and symptoms of sleep regression.

Like every disease or disorder has some common signs and symptoms, sleep regression also has certain common signs and symptoms.

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Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash

2.1. Frequently Night Waking

If your child is waking again and again in the mid of the night and crying and has a problem falling asleep again, this is the first sign of sleep regression.

2.2. Trouble In Falling Asleep During Bedtime

Every child has its pattern of sleep and time of sleep; it depends on the parents what they are teaching their child, the type of upbringing you as a parent will provide; your child will follow that as it is. So, the child must have a fixed time for everything.

If your child is having problems following that, especially in sleep, they might suffer from sleep regression. Especially if your baby is having trouble falling asleep during bedtime, then this is among the signs of sleep regression2.

2.3. Crankiness

Another very prompt sign of sleep regression is crankiness. If your baby is cranky during bedtime or the night, this shows that the baby is suffering from sleep regression.

2.4. Wake Up And Start Crying In The Mid Of The Night

There are many reasons the baby wakes up at night and starts crying, it may be due to hunger, nightmares, or certain illness or pain, but these are signs of sleep regression.

If your child used to wake up in the very mid of the night and then has difficulty falling asleep, then the baby suffers from this sleep problem.

2.5. Resistance To Naps

Some kids are very different from others, the main reason behind sleep regression is the developmental milestones, and some kids enjoy these milestones. They are super active. They want to discover the world more by using their new skills and new landmarks, which is why sometimes kids use to skip their naps to practice their new skills.

This depends on the kid’s behaviors; not every infant is the same, and they have a different approach.

2.6. Cuddle Time

It is very hard to understand what is going on in the newborn baby’s brain, but if your baby needs additional reassurance and snuggles, then the baby has a sleeping problem. Slowly, your baby will learn to sleep without any pain. But no worry, sleep regression is not permanent.

The above-explained points are some very common signs and symptoms of the disease sleep regression. If any of the symptoms mentioned above or signs are visible in your child, your child must need immediate attention.

3. At What Age Does Sleep Regression Happen

As discussed above, sleep regression is very common in infants and small children; sleep regressions are also seen in adults. But the reason behind adult sleep regression is very much different from infant sleep regression.

When depressed or having anxiety at that time, adults suffer from sleep regression, their sleep pattern gets disturbed, and they cannot take a proper nap. Another reason for adult sleep regression apart from depression is trauma. If the individual is suffering from trauma or any serious trauma in the past, the person is also unable to sleep properly. That trauma seance used to haunt that person.

The best way to get rid of all these negative thoughts is to consult with your respective doctor and practice yoga and other workouts daily.

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Photo by Nyana Stoica on Unsplash

But if we talk about infant sleep regression or baby sleep regression, the reason behind this is different in babies.

Usually, in babies, sleep regression is seen at a certain age. These ages generally include the different age groups, including the 3 to 4 months, second 6 months, 8 to 10 months, and last 2 years. We will below discuss why sleep regression is visible in these certain age groups.

According to certain research and behavior analysis, it is assumed that children or kids suffer from sleep regression due to developmental milestones and changes.

4. Different Stages Of Sleep Regression

Sleep regression is particularly for small kids or infants, which is why sleep regression is divided according to the infant’s age. Sleep regression is divided into various stages based on its first occurrence and the time it lasts.

Sleep regression can vary in most babies. The most common relapse of sleep regression happens around the first age of 4-month sleep regression; second, it generally happens in the 6-month sleep regression, then after 8-month sleep regression, it also takes place in some kids after 12-month sleep regression, 18-month sleep regression, and finally at 2 years of age. Now let’s discuss each one in detail.

4.1. 4-Month Sleep Regression

This usually happens in the baby’s sleep, which are around 4 month old. Not all babies experience this 4-month sleep regression. In this, the baby’s sleep patterns are disturbed. Most babies are not able to take enough sleep and deep breath. This can last for two to six weeks in new sleep crutches.

The sign includes.

  • Nap routine changes

  • waking more frequently at night or night wakings.

  • Children find difficulty in falling asleep.

  • Children usually stay awake for the whole night, and they stay asleep the entire or whole day.

Normally 4-month sleep regression is not a very serious type of sleep regression, and it may sometimes be due to sleep problems because of some life change and bad habits. Many babies are overcome with this sleep regression on their own if parents take care of their sleep patterns and follow proper growth spurts.

This is also known as the first sleep regression stage; till this time, many babies begin a permanent change in a baby’s sleep patterns. Generally, in this period, babies or children behave more like adults and less like kids or infants. The baby can overcome these sleep problems on its own if it sleeps properly on time and follows one nap schedule.

4.2. 6-Month Sleep Regression

Until now, there is no confirmation whether or not 6-month sleep regression or sleep problems exist. Some believed that normally during his period child wakes up because of hunger and self-soothe. Or some think also that might be a child is waking because the child wants to replenish its burned calories during the day by practicing their scooting.

On the other hand, some researchers and groups of people also agree that 6-month sleep regression patterns are actual or real sleep regressions. They thought that teething3, separation anxiety, self-soothe or developmental changes, or developmental milestones used to happen in many babies. This sleep regression also follows the same sign as the previous one.

Common signs include

  • Growth Spurt

  • Disturbance in baby’s sleep patterns

  • Baby sleeps more during the day than at night

  • No nighttime sleep

  • Frequent night wakings

  • Overtried due to newfound skills, causing pain and make difficulty sleeping.

4.3. 8-Month Sleep Regression

This sleep patterns disturbance can happen any time between 8 to 10 months. This stage is more related to teething because usually, at the age of 8 to 10 months, the incisor is used in the child. Along with the previously disturbed sleeping pattern, when the teething combines, it causes more problems in the babies. The signs are as same as the above two sleep regressions.

Good night’s sleep or baby’s sleep is very important; if the baby’s sleep is not proper or the baby is not having the appropriate amount of sleep, it may cause the baby to be irritated and less interested in doing and learning new things or new activities. That is why if your baby’s sleep is not proper or baby sleep is disturbed, then consult your respective doctors and Cleveland clinic4.

Avoid having late-night parties in your house if you have a small baby because it creates sleeping problems.

4.4. 12- Month Sleep Regression

This is generally experienced when the child is 12 months years old. The reason behind this sleep regression is as same as the sleep mentioned above reversal. The baby cannot sleep at night and has very much difficulty sleeping.

4.5. 18- Months Sleep Regression

The baby learns the sleep-wake-up cycle in the first four-month; however, rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement change from person to person lifetime, including the very first five years of the individual life.

This causes trouble at bedtime. Rapid and non-rapid eye movement are sleep phases that are very important for different mental and physical activities.

In some babies, the reason behind the 18-month sleep regression is also separation anxiety; they do not want to go away from their parents. On the other hand, a baby also enjoys learning new things, so they want to explore their new world with the help of their unique abilities, so they remain practicing those skills at night, which causes sleep regression.

4.6. 2-Year Sleep Regression

This is the final or last stage of sleep regression. This happens at the age of two or above two. The causes, signs, and symptoms of the two-year sleep regression are slightly different and unique from the other times of sleep regression. The causes, signs, and symptoms are. 

5. What Are The Ways To Manage Sleep Regression

Sleep regression is temporary, which means no child will suffer from sleep regression throughout their life. Sleep regression is also not life-threatening and does not have some pacific treatment; treatment depends totally on how the baby reacts to things. Below are some tips to control or manage sleep regression in the bay.

5.1. Baby’s Sleep Cues

Observe your baby’s sleeping pattern carefully, spend more time with your baby and try to understand their problem. Observe the cues of your baby; these cues include yawing, fussiness, and rubbing their eyes; if these are your baby’s cues, then take your baby to sleep. They will easily fall asleep.

5.2. Bedtime Routine

Try to develop your baby’s proper and regular bedtime routine. This is wholly the parent’s responsibility to build their child’s bedtime routine. Once your baby’s bedtime routine is developed, it will not cause sleep regression.

5.3. Enough Sleep

Observe your baby and observe every step of their life. Ensure they are getting enough sleep; if not, it will be responsible for your baby’s irritable behavior.

Try to develop a proper gap between the two naps of your baby; if there is a very little gap between two naps, it will also create a problem in falling asleep.

5.4. Proper Attention

If your child suffers from separation anxiety, give your baby more time during and before bedtime.

5.5. Extra Feeding

If there is a need for extra feeding, then do not worry about additional feeding for your baby. The baby is in the growth phase and requires additional energy to perform its daily routine learning work. So do not be afraid to extra feed your baby.

6. What Are The Keys Points As A Parent You Have To Keep In Mind

As already described above, sleep regression is not permanent. It is temporary, and all most every child or kid used to suffer from sleep regression once a time. So, it’s absolutely fine if your child has sleep problem symptoms and sings. The key points that you have to keep in mind as a parent are mentioned below.

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Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

6.1. Observation

Observe your child as much as you can, and observe every single thing about your child, their behavior, the pattern of sleep, and everything; this will help you understand your child better.

6.2. Reminder

Remind yourself again and again that this will end soon, and your child will sleep properly without any problem. Yes, this reminder is very important for the parents because they sometimes take it too seriously and start suffering from sleep regression.

6.3. Soothe Your Baby

Try to understand your baby more and find out different ways the baby feels soothed. So, whenever the baby wakes up at night, you have the resources or practices to soothe your baby; this will help your baby to fall asleep again comfortably.

6.4. Avoid Sleep Crutches

Try to avoid new sleep crutches; if you do so, that may put water on all your efforts. Try to follow the same particular routine with your bay every day. Do not need to try every new sleep crutches with your baby.

Final Note

The very simple answer to the question of what is sleep regression is that sleep regression is a type of sleep problem; this is not a disorder or disease, this is a condition, and mostly this condition is prompt in newborn babies. In sleep regression, babies are not able to sleep properly.

They used to wake up in the middle of the night and start crying and again face a lot of difficulty falling asleep, there are a lot of causes behind this condition, and one among the major ones is the developmental milestones.

Newborn babies face sleep regression at a particular age gapes; these are a few weeks to 4 months, 8 months, 12 months to 1 to 2 years.

Sleep regression is temporary and not permanent, so there is no need to take more stress as a parent; your child will overcome this very soon. You need to put in some extra effort and wait for the result.

  1. Pihkala, Panu. “Anxiety and the ecological crisis: An analysis of eco-anxiety and climate anxiety.” Sustainability 12.19 (2020): 7836. ↩︎
  2. Jahrami, Haitham A., et al. “Sleep disturbances during the COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression.” Sleep medicine reviews 62 (2022): 101591. ↩︎
  3. Karjiker, Y. I., and J. A. Morkel. “Teething symptoms and management during infancy-A narrative review.” South African Dental Journal 75.2 (2020): 87-93. ↩︎
  4. Lowe, Katherine E., et al. “Association of smoking and cumulative pack-year exposure with COVID-19 outcomes in the Cleveland Clinic COVID-19 Registry.” JAMA internal medicine 181.5 (2021): 709-711. ↩︎



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