Learn about the most common sleep regressions and what you can do to help your baby sleep better.

newborn baby yawning and laying down

Just when you get your little baby or toddler in a good sleeping groove, it seems like a sleep regression hits.

Your baby might go from sleeping longer stretches in the middle of the night to waking up every 40 minutes. Or she may have been a dream napper and during a regression go on a complete nap strike for several days or even weeks!

Sleep regressions can come on suddenly and seemingly from out of nowhere.

They can make parents feel like their child is a newborn all over again with a day night confusion and an onset of sleepless nights.

They may totally blindside parents who thought they had a “good sleeper.” And unfortunately, sleep regressions are often part of having a baby and a toddler.

The good news is that when you set up good sleeping habits, you can help mitigate sleep regressions or avoid them altogether. Learn all about the most common sleep regressions and see how you can make it through them!

Is your baby struggling with short naps? To help you better, grab my free guide to solving short naps to get practical tips of how to get your baby to take longer naps every single day. Click here to grab it, it’ll be super helpful.

new parents trying to soothe bbay through sleep regression

What is A Sleep Regression?

A sleep regression is a change or disruption to your baby’s night time sleep or naps. It may come on suddenly, out of nowhere, and leave just as suddenly. The most common sleep regressions generally occur when your baby is hitting a major development, either physically or cognitively.

Sleep regressions can last anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks.

What Are the Major Sleep Regressions? 

The most infamous sleep regression is probably the 4-month sleep regression.

And for good reason.

It marks a pretty significant change in your baby’s sleep patterns and how your baby’s brain works when it comes to sleep.

Other common ages to see sleep regressions are 6, 9, and 12 months. 

During toddlerhood, we often see sleep regressions around 18 months, 2 years, and 3 years. 

Keep in mind that turning these ages won’t trigger a sleep regression. Rather, these are the general ages babies achieve different physical and cognitive milestones that can result in a sleep regression. 

So, you may notice sleep regressions a little earlier or later as babies grow and develop at different rates.

sleep regression ages

Most Common Sleep Regression Ages

Here are the ages where babies and toddlers typically experience sleep regressions:

  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months
  • 18 months
  • 2 years
  • 3 years

These are the most common ages for babies and toddlers to have sleep regressions. Other sleep regressions can occur when your baby is sick, teething, or dealing with a new transition such as a move, parent going back to work, or a new sibling.

Even in the newborn stage, growth spurts and more awake time can mirror a sleep regression like the 6 week sleep regression.

Those regressions are often related to an event rather than an age but can still affect sleep patterns in our babies.

Learn more about each common sleep regression and how you can survive it!

How Do I Know if My Baby is Having a Sleep Regression?

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether your baby is hitting a sleep regression, teething, going through a growth spurt, or needs a change in their sleep schedule.

If things were going seemingly well and predictable with sleep and suddenly your baby starts struggling with sleep in these ways, it may be a sleep regression:

  • Frequent night wakings or split nights. If your baby was sleeping well at night, and suddenly starts waking up throughout the night it could be a sign of a baby sleep regression.

  • Struggling with short naps. If your baby was taking predictable naps each day and they start to refuse naps or struggle to fall asleep at their regular nap time.

  • Early morning wakings. If your baby starts waking earlier in the day, it could be a sign of a sleep regression.

Keep in mind that these sleep issues could also be caused by your baby needing to adjust their wake windows as well.

If the change came on suddenly, and your baby’s schedule is on track, then chances are you’re dealing with a sleep regression.

What Triggers A Sleep Regression? 

Sleep regressions are triggered by development, either physical or cognitive. 

Sometimes you may be able to tell right away what is triggering a sleep regression and other times it may take several days or even a couple of weeks to identify the likely trigger. 

Babies are always learning and growing, and during some particularly intense periods of development babies can get distracted by their new skills and the result is a period of tough sleep. 

This is different from tough sleep due to babies outgrowing their current sleep schedule.

When this happens, babies have trouble sleeping because they either aren’t tired yet or are getting too much daytime sleep and as a result, not enough nighttime sleep. 

teething sleep regression graphic

Is Teething A Sleep Regression

Teething can certainly feel like a sleep regression, but it is not actually a sleep regression. When babies don’t sleep well due to teething, it is because their gums are bothering them. 

This is similar to a baby not sleeping well when they have a cold because their nose is congested. A cold isn’t a sleep regression, poor sleep can just be a side effect of a cold. 

In the same way, poor sleep can be a side effect of teething.

The good news is that not all babies have trouble sleeping while teething. The other good news is that like sleep regressions, teething does eventually end. 

Baby D.R.E.A.M Mockup image

Get Better Sleep with The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System

If you want someone to walk you through the process of sleep training, let me help. The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System is for babies 4 months through 2.5 years old. I’ll walk you through how to establish daily routines, sleep schedules, and sleep training techniques to help you break the sleep associations you no longer find beneficial! Check it out here.

How Long Does the Sleep Regression Phase Last? 

There are sleep regressions through the first 3 years of a child’s life, but the most intense period is typically the first year. 

This is because babies are growing and changing so much during this year, which can make sleep regressions feel like they are coming back to back. 

Your baby is experiencing a lot of developmental changes that first year!

Sleep regressions do still occur after the first year, with the 2 year nap regression being particularly notable, but many parents find their children sleep better as toddlers than they did as babies. 

How to Avoid Sleep Regressions?

All children will regress at some point in their sleep, whether it’s due to developmental milestones, teething, pushing boundaries, or needing a schedule change.

Sleep problems are nearly unavoidable as a parent.

Some children will be more sensitive to change and milestones than others though. I dreaded the four-month sleep regression but it never hit us on our four-month baby schedule.

Always check that you are following appropriate wake times for your baby before assuming it’s a sleep regression. If wake times seem good and your baby is feeding fine, then you might just have to ride out the regression and let is pass.

Try not to introduce new sleeping props or poor sleep habits during a sleep regression. Stick to your sleep routine and keep your baby’s bedtime routine as consistent as possible.

Do what you can to get your baby to sleep without introducing new sleep crutches and know that the sleep regression can end just as quickly as it began.

Keep reading to see specific sleep regression ages, why they happen, and tips for handling sleep regressions with your little one.

6 Week Sleep Regression

Newborn babies may experience a sleep setback, though at this age parents are still figuring things out so it’s not as obvious that your baby may be going through their first sleep regression.

Why it Happens

Newborns start “waking up” a bit between 6 to 8 weeks old.

Your sleepy newborn may be a little more alert and it may cause them to be extra fussy.

All that stimuli can be a lot for your newborn!

Your newborn may also be experiencing a growth spurt around the same time, which can also impact sleep.

How to Help

The best thing you can do at this age is prevent your baby from getting overtired. Your newborn’s wake windows are super short, so be mindful of the clock and make sure to prioritize naps.

You can also watch for your baby’s sleep cues to know when they need to sleep again.

Contact naps are absolutely okay at this age and will help your newborn sleep. Remember that sleep begets sleep in those early newborn days, so good day sleep will lead to better night sleep.

You can also use white noise, along with the 5 S’s to help soothe your newborn when they are struggling.

4 month old sleep regression graphic

4 Month Sleep Regression

The dreaded four-month sleep regression!

This is one of the most commonly known sleep regressions and is often the worst one because it creeps up on new parents. Babies who were seemingly sleeping pretty well may start to be up every hour or two throughout the night.

Why it Happens

Babies’ sleep cycles go through a permanent change around four months of age and become more like an adult’s sleep cycle. Newborns experience deep sleep and sleep really hard, but around four months their sleep patterns change.

We all wake up several times a night, but we put ourselves back to sleep when we see our familiar bed, pillow, blanket, etc. We don’t even realize we are doing it because we naturally connect sleep cycles.

When babies are used to being rocked or nursed to sleep, they may start to wake up looking for the same sleep associations that helped them get to sleep in the first place.

They start to need this same sleep prop every time they come out of one sleep cycle (which is about every 40 minutes!).

This may be why your heavy newborn sleeper is suddenly waking up every 40 minutes or so throughout the night!

How to Help

If you haven’t already, now is a great time to learn how to stop nursing to sleep and start your baby on a consistent routine.

Start teaching her how to fall asleep independently so she learns to come out of one sleep cycle and into the next seamlessly.

6-Month Sleep Regression

Your baby may just start to be settling into a good sleep schedule around this age. You’re feeling more confident as a new mom, the 45-minute intruder has disappeared, and your baby may even be sleeping through the night!

Just when things are smooth sailing, another sleep regression rears its ugly head and your baby starts fighting sleep again.

Or maybe all of a sudden, it feels like your baby hates their crib and refuses to sleep in it.

Why it Happens

Your little baby is growing and developing and learning new skills everyday! And with that often comes a 6 month sleep regression.

As your baby learns to roll, crawl, and sit up, her body and mind is going through great change. All this excitement can disrupt your baby’s sleep.

How to Help

Give her plenty of opportunity to practice her new skills during the day. Allow her to be mobile so she can explore her new physical abilities. Check that you are following a 6 month old sleep schedule and consider transitioning from three naps to two if it seems appropriate.

Many parents also choose a popular sleep training method around this age to help teach their baby independent sleep skills.

9 month old sleep regression graphic

8 / 9 / 10-Month Sleep Regression

Between 8 and 10 months, your baby may hit the 8-month sleep regression, 9-month sleep regression, or 10-month sleep regression. Chances are, they won’t be affected every single month though.

This regression is very similar to the six-month sleep regression and happens just a few short months later. Not all babies will be affected by both or either sleep regression.

Why it Happens

Your baby is learning new tricks all over again. She may be starting to pull herself to a standing position or even cruising along furniture at this point. She could have one or two teeth starting to pop through, which can cause a lot of pain and issues with sleeping.

How to Help

Make sure to not introduce any new sleep props. One bad habit shouldn’t replace another. Make sure your 8-month old sleep schedule, 9-month old sleep schedule or 10-month old sleep schedule is right where it should be and that your baby is getting the right amount of day sleep.

If your baby is standing in the crib during sleep times, give them some time to figure it out instead of rushing into their room.

Talk to your child’s pediatrician about offering a pain reliever if you suspect teething and see how to help your teething baby sleep if that’s the culprit! By now most babies have dropped the third nap, so look at your schedule to see if that could also be a culprit.

12 month sleep regression

12-Month Sleep Regression

Your little one is quickly moving from the baby stage into toddlerhood! Soon enough (if she hasn’t already), she’ll take her first steps and start speaking her first words!

All that exciting growth can lead to the 12-month sleep regression, although this regression can happen between 12 to 15 months old.

Why it Happens

All that development—physically and cognitively—is a lot for your baby to take in. When she goes down for bed or a nap, it’s far more fun for her to play in her crib than to sleep in it!

Many babies get their one-year molars around this time as well, which can be painful and cause discomfort. Separation anxiety can also set in at this age. Your baby may not want you to leave the room at night or nap time.

How to Help

Give your baby plenty of opportunities to practice her new skills during the day. Let her move around, practice walking, talking, and following simple directions.

Give her plenty of emotional reassurance as well through hugs, kisses, and cuddles. Build her security throughout the day so she feels secure at night in her room.

Many parents think it’s time to drop to one nap when this regression hits. Make sure to hold off and watch for signs that your child is ready to transition to one nap first.

18 month old sleep regression

18-Month Sleep Regression

This regression can be much harder than some of the others because toddlers can express so much more emotion and frustration than a baby. Your toddler is starting to exercise independence and has no problem letting her little (big) opinions be known!

Why it Happens

Your little baby is growing up! She is now a full-fledged toddler and has plenty of opinions, even when it comes to napping and bedtime.

Your little toddler is also mobile now, meaning she may be able to climb out of the crib.

Toddlers love to push boundaries to see what they can get away with. Your toddler might try protesting sleep to get in bed with you or forgo nap altogether.

How to Help

Give your toddler the opportunity to make plenty of choices during the day and leading up to bedtime. We love following the Love and Logic approach, which suggests you give two choices, both of which you are okay with.

Some examples include, “Do you want to read two books or three books?” “Do you want to wear the heart pajamas or the flower pajamas?”

Little people love having some control over their situations. Give away the control when you can in the hopes that they will be more agreeable when you really need it.

Stay consistent with the sleep patterns you’ve established. If you haven’t set up any sleep boundaries, now is a good time to establish some. Sleep regressions at this age are often more about behavior than they are about sleep cycles.

2 year old sleep regression

Two-Year Sleep Regression

Welcome to the terrible twos and the two-year old sleep regression.

Your toddler may start waking up in the middle of the night out of nowhere or begin a 2 year old nap strike, resisting naps. Some parents may feel like they’re back in the newborn phase with their toddler’s sleep habits at this age.

We had our fair share of toddler sleep regressions and they are just as hard (if not harder) than some of the baby sleep regressions.

Our daughter started waking up in the middle of the night all over again and we had to stay consistent with our boundaries to keep her in her bed. We waited as long as we could before transitioning her out of the crib.

Why it Happens

Your two-year old can be experiencing a number of things, which could cause a regression. Welcoming a new sibling, potty training, or starting a new preschool can all cause sleep issues.

Additionally, two-year molars come in around this time and they can be painful to your little one! Your toddler may also start experiencing fears like darkness or monsters as well.

Many parents transition into a toddler bed around this time, giving their children a whole new sense of independence.

Two year olds aren’t quite ready for this change though. Read through these signs your toddler isn’t ready for a bed before making the move.

How to Help

Let your toddler express her concerns and fears during the day. Make sure to give her plenty of attention throughout the day.

Stay consistent with the sleep habits you have worked so hard on and set boundaries for your family regarding sleep at naps and night time. It’s a toddler’s job to push those boundaries, so they certainly will try it regarding sleep (and everything else!).

Three-Year Old Sleep Regression / 4 Year Old Sleep Regression

I didn’t know there was a 3-year old sleep regression or 4 year old sleep regression until we hit both ourselves!

Our 3.5 year old started waking up in the middle of the night and struggled to go back to sleep. Then, she tested the boundaries all over again around 4.5 years old!

We made it through by staying consistent and keeping clear boundaries and expectations. Also, check your toddler’s sleep schedule to make sure they aren’t getting too much daytime sleep.

You may need to sleep train your toddler to set new habits if you’ve started co-sleeping or laying with them in bed to fall asleep.

Why it Happens

Toddlers can be experiencing changes in their life that can impact sleep such as welcoming a new sibling, starting preschool, moving to a toddler bed, dropping the pacifier, and more. Their imaginations also start to run wild introducing new fears.

How to help

Consistency is more important than ever! If you don’t want your three-year old in your bed, don’t start co-sleeping. You will only send them mixed messages if you cave sometimes and not others.

Double check their nap schedule. Many kids stop napping between 3 and 4 years old, since day sleep can really affect night sleep at this age.

If your toddler is still using a pacifier, you can use the Pacifier Fairy to help wean them. Make sure you’re also following an optimal three year old schedule or 4 year old sleep schedule depending on your child’s age.

Talk through their fears during the day, check their nap schedule, and be wildly consistent with them when they do wake up at night or fight bedtime.

If you’ve worked really hard with setting up healthy sleep habits with your child, then stay strong through these common sleep regressions. Know that they are normal and can pass just as quickly as they started!

(Click infographic to enlarge.)

common sleep regressions infographic

Share this Image On Your Site

Amy Motroni
Latest posts by Amy Motroni (see all)

Similar Posts

One Comment

  1. I totally have to read more about this Love and Logic, seems great! For now I think we’re having 18 months sleep regression and every next one is worse than the previous one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *