What is Sleep Regression in Infants? - What to look for and what to do!
Seeing a baby sleep is one of the best sights offered to mankind by nature. But if you are troubled by your infant's anti-nap campaigns lately, then you are not alone. Just when you start to brag to your friends about your baby's sleep habits and how he/she sleeps on command, you see things going haywire and are now back to square one.
Much to your dismay, sleep regressions may start anytime during childhood development, causing your infant to stay awake through the night or skip naps. Sleep regression is common in babies, but not all babies are prone to sleep problems. In this article, we will present various ways how you can tackle this issue and overcome the detrimental effects that this causes for you and your baby's sleep cycle.
Baby sleep regressions: Causes
A number of factors can cause your baby to feel restless. Some of them are listed below :
- Disruptions in their normal sleep schedule caused by a change in lifestyle such as joining a daycare, traveling, or living in a new environment.
- A rapid growth spurt requires extra energy, thus causing them to feel hungry more often.
- Common illnesses such as colds, rashes, sore throat, etcetera.
These factors differ from baby to baby and on their age as well. Due to undergoing the transition from a newborn's sleep pattern to that of a 4-5-month-old infant, babies often get cranky during this phase. If you notice symptoms such as lethargy, difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, irregular sleep patterns, or fussiness after waking up, then these are clear signs of sleep regression.
How much sleep is essential?
To prohibit the effects of sleep regression, knowing the minimum requirements is vital as well.
- Newborns - 18 hours per day fragmented by feeding sessions in between.
- 1-2 months old - Fourteen to sixteen hours
- 3-6 month old - Night-time sleep can span over 7-10 hours, along with naps during the day.
- 10+ months - 12 hours a day
Types of sleep regression
Four months sleep regression
Sleep biology is a mysterious concept, and not much is known to mankind regarding this. That being said, infant sleep regression at this early age may be due to developmental milestones, teething, and excessive hunger caused by a sudden growth spurt. Many parents also said that the first sleep regression was the toughest for them.
Six months sleep regression
By this age, your baby can roll around, wake up and ask for snuggles. Parents cope up with this issue by usually incorporating a sleep training method for their babies. This sleep regression can occur as early as five months from birth and lasts up to 4 weeks.
Eight months sleep regression
8-9 months of age is very significant when it comes to brain development. By making physical strides such as learning to crawl, cruise, pull up, etcetera, babies foster their brain development. An overtired baby can often be seen taking shorter naps than usual and finding it difficult to fall asleep. Many babies also face the issue of separation anxiety which leads to sleep problems. Parents reported that their babies got a little clingy during this age, wanting to be snuggled at all times.
Twelve-months sleep regression
This is the time around which most babies start standing up, causing them to face temporary sleep regression due to reaching a significant milestone. Some children have even had 18-24 month sleep regression due to nightmares, nyctophobia, etcetera.
Tips for fostering a deep sleep routine
Some babies can also self-soothe back to sleep if not given much attention during their nighttime sleep. Your baby's sleep has more to do with your behavior than you might think. Running towards your infant and hugging him/her every time they cry will only encourage them to repeat their behavior to get attention, thus causing poor sleep and forming futile sleep associations. Comfort your baby but avoid giving them bad habits.
Sleep regressions cannot be prevented totally, but it is possible to limit them to some extent by following the practices given below.
Keep their room dark
Bright light sends a critical signal to the mind encouraging feelings like wakefulness and alertness. Keeping your baby awake during the day and exposing them to natural light will help keep their body's internal clock up to date.
Darkness facilitates the release of our body's sleep hormone called melatonin. This helps our body to stop fighting sleep by increasing drowsiness.
Notice your child’s sleep patterns
Identifying different baby wake windows can help you know how much sleep is needed for proper functioning. Many experts suggest keeping a sleep log along with sleep training to be able to identify bedtime and schedule naps easily.
Newborns are always cycling between deep and light sleep and can only stay awake for 60-90 minutes in a day. A one-month-old baby may sleep up to 16-18 hours a day and can go about an hour without sleeping. You can also sing them a lullaby when they start falling asleep to improve their circadian rhythm.
Lack of physical activity during the day can also be an underlying cause of sleep regressions. Growth spurts can also lead to increased appetite. Hence frequent physical activity to ensure physical fitness is also crucial. Apart from sleep problems, you may also find your baby resisting sleep due to lack of playtime. Some parents also alter their baby's bedtime routines and put them down earlier than usual or in the day to make up for the sleep lost during the night.
Creating a healthy sleep environment
Offering verbal reassurance can also help your baby to become a good sleeper. Common signs of drowsiness in babies include yawning, disinterest, and rubbing their eyes. Response time to these signs can have a significant impact on sleep routines.
Once you identify your baby's wake windows, you can also start feeding them before they fall asleep. This will avoid the situation where they have to opt-out of sleeping and show extreme fussiness due to hunger.
Using a white noise machine
These white noise machines help your baby sleep by canceling out other noises which can be caused due to living in a crowded city, such as traffic. Most toddlers seem to like the sound of rainforest or wind chimes.
A study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood helped gather some trustworthy health information on this. Out of the 40 newborns that were tested, 80% of them fell fully asleep within five minutes of exposure to white noise. It can also help in the betterment of the baby's temperament.
Some pediatricians reported increased cases of hearing problems in babies who used white noise machines. This can happen if the noise exceeds the recommended noise limits for babies. Make sure that your little one doesn't become reliant on white noise to fall asleep. This can land you in problems on your vacations or in any situation where your sound machine is not with you. Some gadgets can also mimic the heartbeat noise of the mother to help counter sleep regression.
Contacting medical associations
You should never be afraid to ask for help or to reach out to other parents for advice. Most of these problems are treatable, and doctors can easily provide medical advice to those in need. Friends and family members should also provide support by offering help.
Bedtime routine to tackle sleep regressions
Every baby is different, and no hard and fast rule can be applied to them in general. Putting your newborn through a sleep schedule is not ideal as they do not have any idea of day or night due to being in the womb for nine months. Sleep cycles become more predictable for babies who are two months or older. The regime that you create should be flexible.
A routine filled with cuddles, lullabies, book reading, and massage will go a long way.
We hope that these tips will help your baby sleep and also inculcate a better sleeping schedule overall. Even sleep can seem like a dream if you have a newborn around. It's okay to feel flustered by the responsibilities that are thrown at you as a parent. Make sure you take out enough time for yourself as well as your partner and take proper care of your mental health.