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How to Handle Sleep Regressions: Top Tips for Tired Parents

Baby Lying In Cot Looking Up

“I’m working on something really exciting and I can’t sleep!” 

If your little one is going through a sleep regression, this is probably what they would say to you. Imagine you have a huge project on at work or it’s the night before a big presentation. You have a million thoughts running through your mind.. and when does this usually happen to us? As soon as our head hits the pillow!


That’s exactly what it’s like for little ones when they are on the verge of rolling, crawling, walking or talking. They are hitting big milestones and have taken in a lot of new information during the day. Their little minds start processing it at night, making it very hard for them to settle or stay settled – cue the sleep regression!

Below are the ages where sleep regression is most common, however it can happen at any age. Other aspects like starting nursery or school can affect sleep, so it is not always down to a developmental milestone.

The 4 month sleep regression

During this stage, babies sleep patterns change and their sleep cycles change to become more like adults. This can result in a sleep regression. Whilst your baby may have been sleeping well for naps and beginning to do longer stretches at night, all of a sudden, they are waking early from naps, find it really hard to settle and wake repeatedly in the night. 

They are also becoming more aware of their surroundings, so being easily distracted during feeds and taking longer to settle for sleep. They are starting to move now and rolling becomes a big game and can easily disrupt their night’s sleep

Top Tips…

  • Establish a bedtime routine, if you have not already, including a bath and story as these are good cues that sleep is coming. 

  • Helping them learn to settle themselves to sleep so that when they wake in the night and are not hungry or wake early from a nap, they can settle back to sleep themselves. 

  • Transfer into a big cot, so they can practice their rolling skills 

  • Using white noise for naps and nights, often helps little ones settle to sleep quicker, settle back to sleep when they wake and stop them being woken by noises both inside the home and out.

  • They maybe hungry again, a breastfed baby often needs another feed in the night at this age until weaned.

8-10 month sleep regression 

Babies around this age often go through a tough time with sleep, finding it harder to settle, waking in the night and early morning wake ups. This period can last between 3-6 weeks and is not normally the way things will continue to be long term.  

This mainly due to: 

Developmental changes, sitting, crawling, pulling up all of these they practice a lot in their cot 

  • They are absorbing more and more language now in preparation for babbling so they may just be just too busy in their minds to settle down. 

  • Dropping the 3rd last nap of the day, if not already done so. So maybe overtired or not quite ready for bed yet. 

  • Overtired as maybe on the go now and crawling and very active. 

  • More aware now so may have become clingier generally.

Top Tips…

  • Keep consistent with nap and bedtime routines.

  • Give your baby the chance to self-settle, we are sometimes quick to jump in and in fact make matters worse. Use my 10-minute rule of wait and listen, then respond if necessary. 

  • If they are standing but unable to get back down, then going in and laying them back down a few times maybe necessary until they go back to sleep.

Already able to self-settle 

If they can already self-settle then this will pass and remaining firm and consistent with your routine, especially at bedtime will help them get back on track quickly. Avoid re introducing old crutches like rocking, feeding or a dummy if you are trying to drop it. 

Unable to already self-settle

See the above information regarding helping your little one to self-settle.

18-20 month sleep regression 

At this time, it’s generally down to discipline issues. They have learnt to say no and have lots of self-will so may fight naps and bedtimes. They might be teething and cutting their canine and molar teeth. It may also be down to separation anxiety as it’s generally at it’s strongest 10-18 months.

Top Tips…

  • Stay firm with your bedtime routine, keep the routine to just 45 minutes, ask them to choose maybe 2 or three stories and stick to that, they are great at asking for more so delaying bedtime.

  • If they have not already learnt to self-settle and you still need to be in the room with them or choose to stop co–sleeping, then maybe think about some sleep coaching to help them learn to fall asleep from bedtime without your help. The Baby Guru’s responsive sleep coaching technique helps with teaching your little one learns to go to sleep independently. This will then help for when they wake in the night as they can, then unless there is something wrong go back to sleep without your help. 

  • If you have done some sleep coaching before, it may be necessary to reinforce this now. Don’t rush in when they won’t settle give them my 10-minute rule of wait and then listen, respond with reassurance in a loving but determined way. You are not cross with them of course just consistent and firm. “Everything is okay, I am here but It’s time to go to sleep now”

  • Offer simple explanations, they cannot yet have a full conversation but just in a few simple words explaining why it’s important to go to bed and sleep.

  • Separation anxiety peeks between 10-18 months old and normally passes by the time they are 2 years old. It very often affects them in the night, so going in  calmly and quietly, reassuring them you are still there but that it’s time for sleep.

I hope this helps you in understanding why sleep regression happens and what you can do to get through it. If you need a little extra help, you know where I am!

Sam, The Baby Guru

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