The Truth About Sleep Regressions

newborn
Image: SleepWise

This week our contributing writer Jillian Dowling talks about how to deal with sleep regressions in children.

I hear the term “sleep regression” used often and though there can be sleep regressions throughout your child’s life, I believe there are many misconceptions.

I believe that many nap transition stages are mistaken for regressions. Your child’s sleep requirements will change often in the first year of life. They will go from 5 naps a day down to 1 in only 12 months and that is a lot of change for such a little person. If you haven’t prepared for the changes you may see some different behaviour in your baby and some very obvious (and likely negative) changes to their sleep.

Many parents believe it is just a stage and that it will sort itself out eventually. That may be true in some cases but for many babies this is the beginning of some big sleep issues. Dealing with nap transitions is very important but first you have to know when they can be expected and how to recognize that your child is ready.

The first, and probably the most talked about “regression” is at four months. The truth is that this is the first time your child is ready to start to have more consolidated sleep. This means your child can start to have 3 solid naps a day with a little more awake time between sleeping than they have been able to during the newborn stage. You can also see some long stretches of sleep during the night as your child doesn’t need to be fed as frequently.

The next common “regression” age is 6 months. This is when your child is ready to drop one nap and be on a 2 nap a day schedule. It can be tough to make this transition and your child may require an earlier bedtime. This is also the time that your child is ready to drop night feeds (if he hasn’t already on his own). 12 hours of night sleep with 2 1.5-2 hour naps is a great schedule for babies this age.

Although this isn’t typically a transition age, 8 months can be a common “regression” age. This can often be babies who are still taking 3 naps and didn’t transition down to 2 naps at 6 months. They are getting too much daytime sleep and aren’t feeling tired enough to go to sleep at bedtime. They also need to have more awake time between naps and before bedtime to be tired enough to have long stretches of sleep.

The next one is the 12 month “regression”. This can be a tough one because your child has hit many milestones at this point and sleep issues can be much more difficult to manage. Typically between 12-14 months your child will be ready to drop the second nap and be on a one nap a day schedule. That means a more extended amount of awake time during the day, making this transition very important.

Regressions that happen after about 18 months of age can be due to all sorts of things. Toddlers sometimes do just have little blips in their sleep and that is totally normal. If it has been less than 2 weeks just stay very consistent and continue with your regular schedule and your child’s sleep should get right back on track. When it gets past the 1-2 week period of disrupted sleep it is time to look at what is causing the disturbance. You may want to speak to your doctor or a sleep specialist to see if there is something else causing their disrupted sleep.

If your child is having a regression or you think she might be ready for a nap transition, here are the signs that it is time:

  • Nap length is beginning to decrease
  • It is taking longer for your child to fall asleep at nap time or bedtime (or both)
  • Increase in your child’s stamina
  • Your child starts to wake earlier in the morning

Nap transitions can be difficult if you aren’t prepared and can definitely lead to sleep regressions.

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