Sleep regressions are the talk of the town in the sleep world! You might hear about all sorts of sleep regressions at different ages. The anticipation alone can cause some anxiety for some as you prepare for the 4,5,6,7,8,9 and 10 month regressions! Not to mention the 12,14 and 15 month ones! If you have a well rested, healthy sleeper to begin with, you will find those sleep regressions happening less and lasting less than anticipated. So if you find that you are having many sleep regressions or getting anxious in anticipation of all of these set backs to your sweet sleep, read on to find out more about what causes sleep regressions and how you can fix them.
Don’t get us wrong, this does not mean that there will never, ever be any sleep regressions when you do have a healthy, consistent sleeper. You will however notice that there are less of them and they don’t tend to last as long.
Here are some of the most common causes of sleep regressions and what you can do to help your little one get some more rest!
Schedules and nap transitions:
When your little one is going through some of the major nap transitions such as going from 3 naps to 2 or 2 naps to 1, it can cause some minor set backs with sleep as they adjust to the changes and as you navigate shifting their schedule to find the right fit. The good news about this one is that it is usually a quick fix! Give them some time to adjust, make sure that the new schedule is right for them and make sure they are not going to bed too overtired, stay consistent and you will get back on track quickly!
How they fall asleep
This is probably the biggest cause of frequent, long lasting sleep regressions. After 4-6 months of age, we see a big shift in babies where HOW they fall asleep initially for naps and bedtime starts to impact their ability to sleep. When babies and children know how to fall asleep on their own for all sleep periods, they feel a lot more secure to be able to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up at night or after a short nap. Whereas many children that like to be bounced, fed, rocked or walked to sleep will wake up more often looking for that to be recreated each time so that they can get back to sleep. It can also contribute to more periods of ups and downs. You may get some good sleep for a few days or even a few weeks and before you know it, you are back down that road of sleepless nights or unpredictable sleep!
Please note: If you rock or feed to sleep and it is working out for you, amazing! Sometimes what happens is that it works for a certain amount of time and then it doesn’t. Teaching your little one how to fall asleep on their own for sleep periods is what really helps you get that great consistent sleep and can help reduce the frequency of frequent regressions that seem to linger.
Going to sleep too drowsy or needing too much support on a regular basis can be considered over helping your little one sleep and can contribute to more regressions.
Developmental milestones is another cause of genuine regressions. When your little one is learning something new, it can really take over their minds for a few days! Their brains are working on overdrive and they can’t stop thinking about and processing this new thing that they have learned. All they want to do is practice, practice and practice and it can be frustrating for them because they may not have perfected it just yet. A great example is when they learn to roll and flip onto their bellies but can’t remember how to get back so they cry for help. Learning to stand can be quite similar-check out this blog post for the 4 steps we recommend.
What you want to do in these circumstances is:
- Allow them the space and time to practice during their awake times.
- Help them at first but try not to overdo it. Make sure that you work on having them do more and more of it on their own so that their confidence can build.
- Try not to go back too many steps if your little one was previously a solid sleeper.
Illness and travel
Naturally when your little one gets sick or you travel to a foreign environment this can throw them off of their routine and schedule and cause a bit of a bump in the road.
Illness: When our children are sick, you really want to first judge how sick they are. If it is a minor cold, they may be a bit uncomfortable but you want to try and offer them a bit more support without going all the way back to square one (if you have already worked on independent sleep.) When they are really sick though, all bets are off. You might need to hold them, comfort them and if they are very ill, they might not be on schedule whatsoever. Give them what they need in that moment.
The trick though is as soon as they are feeling better, set some firm limits surrounding sleep and work on getting them back on track asap. The sooner you get them back on track, the less severe the regression will be. If you had a very solid and consistent sleeper before the illness, it should not take that long to get them back on track.
Travel: When you go away on a vacation or a weekend getaway, it is inevitable that there will be some off track sleep here and there. You will want to enjoy some of your time but try to balance going off of their schedule with having some days where you are staying put. This will help avoid a major set back. For example: If you are going to have some on the go naps, try not to make every nap-every day an ‘on the go’ nap.
When you arrive, your little one might need some extra support in feeling comfortable to sleep in the new place. Offer a little more support that first day or two and then work towards getting back on track with independent sleep for the 2nd or 3rd day onward. Once you get back home, get right back on track with sleep! You may have to remind your little one by setting some limits.
This does not mean that you will never have a doozy of a regression, but with the right tools and response from you, you can get them out of it quickly enough so that it does not turn huge!
Quick note about toddler regressions: there are changes when they become toddlers and what they respond well too. Separation anxiety and setting limits and boundaries comes into play. So the same method you used as a baby might need some changing for your developing toddler.
Consistency and Sleep
Consistency is so important for how fast your child will get back on track after a sleep regression. Your child needs to understand what the expectations are when it’s time for sleep. They cannot do that if you do not show them and follow through. When your child knows how to fall asleep on their own, being consistent with their sleep routine will help them get back on track quickly enough.
True sleep regressions can have a few causes but the most important thing to remember is that they should typically only last for a few days to a week or so. If it has been going on for much longer, there might be something else going on that could be changed, contact us, we can help!
What we do at Restful Parenting is help you with all of your sleep challenges. Primarily, we work with you to help you teach your little one how to fall asleep on their own. We help you figure out which method is right for you and your child. As you have probably already read, there are so many different methods out there which can make things feel a little overwhelming! With a program from us, we give you a plan based on your comfort level and parenting style. Then we support you and answer all of your questions along the way! And because each child is different, we are by your side through this journey so that we can help you and tweak anything to fit your individual child’s needs. Check out our services page for more info.