Sleep Regression. Is it a myth?
There is a lot of conflicting information surrounding sleep regressions in babies and children.
What is Sleep Regression?
Sleep regression is a term used to describe a disturbance in your baby’s sleep pattern. Usually characterised by regular waking throughout the night and difficulty transitioning between sleep cycles.
When Will My Child Experience A Sleep Regression?
Research suggests that children experience a disturbance in their sleep pattern when they reach a developmental milestone. There are age ranges where this is typical, 4 months, 6 months, 8 months and 12 months, this is because these are the average ages to experience developmental milestones and experience growth spurts. However I think it is really important to remember that children will develop at their own pace. Please do not worry if your baby doesn’t reach these developments by the ages above. If you are concerned, talk to a health professional.
What Causes A Sleep Regression?
Disturbances in your baby’s sleep is caused by their developing brain. When humans sleep, their brain is digesting everything they have done and learnt, this is why it’s so important for us to get sufficient sleep per 24hours. When your baby is sleeping, their brain is working hard to absorb everything they have experienced and learnt whilst awake. Babies are so active and busy watching their surroundings that they have a lot to digest when asleep, especially as they learn a new skill. This causes the brain to be particularly active in absorbing all this new information when asleep.
When a baby is learning a new physical skill such as crawling, walking, waving etc you might notice they become particularly physical in their sleep, kicking, waving their arms, rolling, sitting etc. This is your baby’s instinctive need to practice their new skills. All this practicing can cause them to wake up throughout the night as sudden movements activate the startle response.
You can help your baby through this phase by creating lots of time during the waking hours to practice their new skill. Once they have mastered it, you should see their sleep settle back to how it was ‘pre sleep regression’.
Diagnosing A Sleep Regression
A sleep regression will usually last a week or two. During this phase you may notice that your baby is learning a new skill, developing their language and understanding or learning to recognise more faces. If their sleep doesn’t improve or you’re worried they might be poorly it’s important to have them checked by a health professional.
Managing Each Sleep Regression
When your baby is experiencing disturbances in their sleep it can impact your sleep too. It can feel difficult to complete your usual daily activities on limited sleep. Limit your daily activities and don’t put pressure on yourself to get your usual duties done. It’s ok for you to take a break when you’re tired too.
It’s important to remind yourself that this is temporary. Do what you can to stick to your usual sleep routines but allow for extended sleep where necessary. Over-tiredness can contribute to disrupted sleep so you might feel an earlier bedtime helps to combat this.
Sleep regression has a negative connotation because of the disrupted sleep which can be difficult to manage.
Remind yourself that your baby is experiencing this because they are learning and developing.
Although this can have a difficult impact in the short term remember that it is a great joy to watch them grow physically and in their personality.
Rather than thinking of this as a regression, look at it as your baby progressing.
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