What is a sleep regression and when does it happen?

Is your perfect sleepers, suddenly showing signs of waking up in the middle of the night?

An average sleep of a newborn baby is more than 17 hours, waking only for feedings few hours. It is often challenging for new parents to know or understand the sleeping pattern of a baby. Unfortunately, there is no set schedule at first, however, eventually baby adopts your sleep schedule. Initially the baby falls asleep, and straight way get into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. As it gets older, the REM sleep moves to the later in the night.

There is no denial, that it gets frustrating when a super sleeper suddenly starts waking and wailing up at night, every times you try to put it down at a regularly scheduled naptime. You could be dealing with sleep regression, which is normal in newborns and passes by with given time and consistent routines.

What is a sleep regression?

Sleep Regression is a period usually about 2-4 weeks, when a baby with sleep routine suddenly has trouble settling down/ wakes up fussing in the middle of the night.

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What causes sleep regression in babies and why does it happen? 

 There are many factors that discomforts baby making them anxious or restless, leading to sleep regression, including –

  • Increase in the appetite with growth
  • Teeth pain
  • Disruption in routines
  • Travelling/ change of location, home lighting etc
  • An illness, such as cold, cough or an ear infection

 How long does sleep regression last?

 Usually is lasts in about 2-4 weeks as soon as the baby gets used to the new routine or recover from illness. However, its best to stick to your routines and consider sleep training.

Signs of sleep regression

It may vary from baby to baby and causes, here are few signs you can identify for sleep regression –

  • Frequently waking up at night
  • Trouble in falling asleep
  • Increase in fussiness and crankiness
  • Sudden resist to naps

When sleep regressions happen

Sleep regression is linked to many unpredictable factors like disruption in routine or illness. However, its relatively foreseeable, due to growth, teething or reaching a new milestone:

  • 3 to 4 months: There are several factors causing sleep problems in your baby: the pain caused by teething, hunger linked to growth etc
  • 6 months: Reaching at this age, babies are capable of sleeping by themselves. Hence, designing a sleep training method can be daunting to their previous routine
  • 8 to 10 months: Generally, when baby starts crawling and begin to explore the surroundings, a separation anxiety is common among them, which results in baby waking up for reassurance from you during night
  • Toddlers also often go through sleep regression at around 18 months and 24 months caused by nightmares or night terrors, and fear of dark.

Tips for managing and preventing sleep regressions in your baby

Usually sleep regression is temporary in a baby and there is no proven way to prevent it. However, it can be managed by maintaining sleep schedules and bedtime routines –

  • Identifying certain sleep cues such as rubbing eyes, fussiness, yawning.
  • Sticking to bedtime routine, dinner, baths, lullabies and other baby activities
  • Ensuring baby is getting approx. 16-17 hours of sleep
  • Consider sleep training in 4-6 months and wait at least for 2 weeks to see if its working
  • If your baby seems stressed out by a life change or has separation anxiety, giving it extra attention during the day and especially before bedtime.

When to call the doctor about sleep regression

Sleep regression is likely to end at its own pace, never hesitate to check with your doctor if you have concerns about your baby’s sleep. Further, it’s also ideal to call doctor, if continuous sleep training method isn’t working and effecting baby’s sleeping hours.

If your baby isn’t sleeping because of sickness, identify the sign and call paediatrician with temperature and common signs of cough and cold etc

Self-care for new parents –

Being a new parent is hard and complicated to understand the sleeping pattern in a baby. Occasional sleep difficulties are normal and are not a reflection of parents or their children. Setting reasonable expectations and not being too hard on yourself are major parts of self-care for parents.

In addition, take time to reflect on whether you’re meeting your own health needs, including whether you’re getting the sleep, you need. If not, consider how you can, make time for yourself so that you can be healthy and provide the best support for your child.

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