What is sleep regression?

Until you become a parent, sleep regression is something you will have probably never heard of. While once you may have enjoyed a baby who slept soundly, now you’re faced with regular 20-minute wake up calls, or a toddler who is single-handedly waging their own anti-nap protest. So, what is sleep regression, why does it happen and what can you do about it?

sleep regression

Sleep regression basically describes a period of time when a baby or toddler who had been sleeping well suddenly starts to wake at night, take shorter naps or skip them completely, for no apparent reason. This can often catch parents off guard and be very frustrating too.

There are a number of factors than can make your little one uncomfortable, anxious or restless, which can lead to sleep regression.

  • A growth spurt, which can increase hunger.
  • Pain caused by teething.
  • Reaching a new and exciting developmental milestone.
  • A change or disruption to routine.
  • Being somewhere new or different.
  • Feeling poorly.

The most common ages you may experience sleep regression in your child are four months, eight months and 18 months. Typically, these ages align with big milestones that can cause sleep setbacks. At any age, sleep regression typically lasts between three and six weeks, although every child is different. The name itself should give you hope – a regression implies a return to a former state… not a permanent change!

Surviving sleep regression involves two things: taking a deep breath and remembering it won’t last forever. Try and keep as consistent as you can with napping and bedtime schedules – but be prepared to be flexible too. Although things may not happen as they usually did, keeping things familiar will really help. If you can create a calming routine and environment for your little one, this may also help. Try adding a soothing massage, bath, swaddling or story time at bedtime to keep your child relaxed.