As we know sleep is such an important part of our children’s lives. As parents we work really hard to help our children sleep as best as possible, to encourage a heathy and happy developing child. The first 12 months of a child’s life can feel like their sleep is forever changing and developing. It can often feel hard to keep up with all the sleep changes at times. Then on top of this we can add in the sleep regressions that can occur for apparently no reason along the way.
A sleep regression is known as an unexplained period of time, between 1-4 weeks, where your child has unsettled day and night sleep, where previously they have a settled sleeper. This is often a frustrating time for parents as it is often unexpected and can appear to disrupt your happy routine.
Sleep regressions are often linked to large developmental leaps in your child’s life. The extra mental stimulation, learning, processing, memory, plus physical and mental development is creating new neuron pathways in your child’s brain. All of this extra neurological activity can create disruption in your child’s sleep. Sleep regression are often seen to have a negative impact on your child’s life, but in fact it is a positive and natural progression of your child learning and growing development.
Sleep regression can occur at different time for different children, but there are general ages where a sleep regression is likely to occur. The most common ages for a sleep regression to occur are 4 months, 8-10 months, 12 months, 18 months and 2 years. With each sleep regression it is often linked to your child taking that next step in there healthy development.
One of the more significant and talked about sleep regressions is the 4 month’s sleep regression. But to be honest this should really be named the 4 month’s sleep Progression. Despite the fact that this is often one of the most frustrating sleep regression, it is also one that will help set up your child's sleep for the rest of their lives. This Sleep Progression is structured around your child’s mental and sleep development. This is the time in your child’s life where they now go from sleeping in a baby-like way, with less defiant sleep patterns and cycles, to a more adult like pattern with a now fully formed circadian rhythm and biological clock.
The 4-month sleep regression is also your child telling you that they are ready to learn how to sleep more independently. This means it is a perfect time to help them learn how to self-settle and resettle independently. This can often be an overwhelming concept for parents, and they can struggle to feel that they can achieve at this age. Parents can often feel that their child is still too young to truly learn these skills. But in fact 4-6 month’s it is the perfect time help your child develop these 2 very important and lifelong needed sleeping skills. Until you child has learnt how to truly self-settle and resettle independently sleep will be a challenge for as long as it takes for these skills to be learnt. As well as this, the sleep regressions that follow will often effect your child more and for a longer period of time. And just between you and me, if your child hasn’t learn how to sleep confidently before the age of 9 month, these sleep regression seem to still have a more significant effect on your child sleep throughout the ages.
The 8, 9 or10 months sleep regression is more physically developmentally based, as your child is learning to crawls, pull them self-up and get around a lot more. The 12 month’s sleep regression can be more of a nap adjustment and refusal, often more related to your child fear of missing out and realising that they have an opinion, which they want to share. The 18-month sleep regression can be a heightened extension of your child 12 regression. Once again your child is now learning how to voice their option and because they are now older can be very vocal and determined to do things their way. They are also learning lots of new skills at this age and wanting to become more independent. The 2 year sleep regression is a little more mentally development focused as there is lots of mental and brain development growth. This can also see your child waking with night terrors and/or night mares. Your child is also becoming a lot busier during the day and their desire to learn new thing has just gone up another level. This can be a long a frustrating sleep regression for parent, especially for those children who wake with nightmares of terrors.
However, with all these sleep regressions there some important step that you can take as a parent to help reduce the impact they can have on everyone’s sleep.
First and foremost aim to ensure your child is able to self-settle and resettle independently, this will help reduce any unnecessary wakening and will lengthen your child’s sleeps day and night.
Secondly, ensure that your child is sleeping at the right times day/night, as well as for the right amount of time day/night. This is very important as it with help encourage a healthy circadian rhythm and body clock.
Thirdly, aim to reduce over tiredness. By working on the first two steps this will help ensure your child is not in an overtired state. The impact and ramifications to your child’s sleep if they are in an overtired state, will heighten any sleep issues your child is having, whether it is sleep regression related or not.
Fourthly, CONSISTANCY is key to overcoming any disturbance to your child’s sleep. If you know that your child was sleeping well before and has a healthy sleep relationship, maintaining your constancy and patience will help your child come out the other side of any sleep regression happy. Consistency and patience is so important, this will reduce the impact of these sleep disturbances and help everyone to gain more sleep sooner.
Basically the more your child can have a healthy sleep relationship and confident, the less likely your child and family will be impacted by any sleep regression. If you can help your child develop the healthy roots and foundations to sleep from the early ages, you will be helping to set them up for a life time of sleeping success. Unfortunately, your child will experience sleep disturbance in their life, from sleep regressions to holidays to illness. But if you can always maintain your basic healthy sleep foundations + consistency they will come out the other end quickly and go back into their happy sleeping routine.
I do encourage you to ask for help or look into helping your child to develop healthy sleeping foundation if you feel that sleep is an issue for your child or children. It is never as stressful as you think and the healthy benefits for your child and family are lifelong. It is a proven fact that children who have a healthy relationship and amount of sleep for their age, this will help them to grow, learn and develop as best as possible. So if you are wanting any extra support with establish a healthy sleep routine for your child then please feel free to contact me anytime. Sleep if so important for parents and children, as it helps us all get that one step closer to a to our most balanced, happy and enjoyable life.