What is the sleep regression timeline and how can we predict them?
The word regression I hear more and more nowadays.” My child is in a sleep regression”. “They will grow out of this regression.” “It’s just a little regression”. I don’t know about you, but every disruption in my child’s sleep I blamed on teething, even though only ONCE did a disruption actually produce a tooth coming through the gums! If you haven’t read my blog on teething you can find it here.
I did not have that information on teething when my daughter was little, and that’s exactly why I put it out there now, and why I am going to address regressions to bring a little light to all parents wherever you are at in your sleep journey. Let’s take a deeper look into the sleep regression timeline.
First, what is a regression?
Regression means to return to a former less developed state.
When we are talking about our children, we usually mean they are waking in the night, not napping, trouble going to sleep, and/or waking up very early.
Second, Why do regressions happen?
- Routine is changed or not being consistent.
- Developmental milestones
- Holidays, events, company staying in your home.
These are the top 5 most common causes of sleep disruptions.
Illness of course causes us to be more attentive, cuddling, sometimes sleeping together. Medicine can disrupt sleep, and of course symptoms of the illness cause poor quality sleep.
When a child is out of their routine, and in a different place to sleep this can throw them for a loop! Not to mention if you are traveling to a different time zone, this will really mess with their biological clock.
As I said above for travel a change of scenery or even the slightest change in routine. They will notice. Children thrive off of predictability, knowing what is going to happen next. If it is a stressful week, you decide to do one book instead of two, or skip the bath, this will affect their sleep.
Whenever your baby learns a new skill there is a possibility it will disrupt their sleep. Sitting up? Standing? Of course they want to practice these in their crib :). Also, be aware of a change in their needs. They might be transitioning from 2 naps to 1, or from 1 nap to none. This can disrupt their sleep if they are getting too much sleep during the day instead of at night. Before making a change, give it the 2-week test. Has your child consistently been having trouble falling asleep at night for 2-weeks? Has your child been fighting naps for 2-weeks straight? If you see a consistent pattern you will know that their needs are changing.
Holidays, events, disruptions at home:
All of these things are very exciting, but also very stimulating for a child at any age. Any of these overstimulating events can cause over tiredness, fragmented sleep, nap frustration, and early wake ups.
Regressions might not have an explanation, but they are temporary.
Moral of the sleep disruptions story. Expect your journey to have bumps, this is just life. Just as some nights we sleep better than others, the same goes for children. Stick to your routine as much as possible, even when you travel, and when you host guests in your home. Prioritize sleep for your child at all times. One night of overstimulation and a late bedtime is ok but more than that would be too much for a child.
Tell guests and family how important it is for your baby to get to sleep on time, because it is important! You would never deprive a child of food right? The same should go for sleep! Last but not least, keep in mind habits can be formed in 3-days for children. Good or bad. So when you’re on vacation and change the bedtime to later, this can turn into a habit for your child. Same goes for anything you change in routine for a length of time. Luckily when you get home you can get them back to the consistent routine they are used to, with a little work and about 3-days’ time.
Be ok with change.
As important as it is to have a daily routine and bedtime, as I said above, our kids grow and change and we need to be aware and open to make changes where necessary. I love to think of routine and sleep as a sturdy foundation that we can always build off as we go along in life.
Just recently, my daughter who is 7 years old, started waking up looking haggard, with dark circles under her eyes, and coming home from school very irritable and cranky. She had the same bedtime for over a year, fell asleep well, and as far as I knew was sleeping great. These changes in her appearance and behavior were a sign for me that something needed to change.
Wanting to avoid a negotiation battle I changed her Hatch alarm to a half hour earlier to signal her to turn off her light to go to bed. She woke up the next day much more refreshed and energized, and didn’t even mention the earlier bedtime (much to my surprise!), because she was TIRED and needed the extra rest. Her behavior in the afternoons has improved, and to this day she has not fought us on the earlier bedtime because her body knows that it needs the change; if anyone has met my daughter, she is a force to be reckoned with and tries to negotiate everything. This showed me I made the right decision, and truth be told I would have fought for her needs over negotiation any day.
Sleep Regression Timeline Tips
No matter what age, or what society tells you your child should be doing, follow the signs the body naturally shows us. Don’t be afraid to make changes, even if you think there will be a fight, or it will disrupt your afternoon or evening. Our children depend on us to make the hard decisions and guide them in the right direction for them to truly thrive.
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