Updated: 3 days ago
You’ve just come out of the newborn bubble and feel like you are starting to get the hang of things, when all of a sudden your baby starts only having 45 minute naps during the day and even worse, they start waking every couple of hours overnight. What’s going on!?
This is what we often refer to as the 4 month sleep regression. This is normal and a very common concern among parents.
From about 4 months old your baby's sleep cycles mature and you will start to see an obvious pattern to their sleep emerge. As their day sleep cycles only last about 45 minutes, this now becomes more apparent as they may start to struggle linking these cycles together.
The same can happened at night. Their sleep cycles reduce from 4-6 hourly to 2-4 hourly. So, you may have become used to waking just once a night for a quick feed, popping them back down, then sleeping the rest of the night. Now your little one could be waking as often as every 2 hours! After two hours your baby enters a light sleep phase and, especially if they are overtired from catnapping all day, they may struggle drifting back off to sleep and yell out for help.
Often a baby who was already a bit of a catnapper will show more signs of experiencing this regression than a baby who has always slept relatively well. The build-up of sleep debt throughout the day will cause a baby to become overtired, which is one of the main contributing factors of frequent night wakes. Also, how your baby falls asleep can start to cause issues. If your baby is assisted to sleep, when they wake, they will look for the same conditions to fall back to sleep, so they cry out for help. A baby who can self-settle at the beginning of naps and bedtime will find it easier to link their sleep cycles and resettle when they wake.
As the 4 month regression is actually a neurological progression, it is not something you should necessarily just ride out and wait for it to solve itself. Each baby will react differently depending on their genetics, sleep hygiene and ability to self-settle. Some babies are easy sleepers and will adjust on their own, and their sleep improves with time, but others will need a little help. In some cases, if left alone, the effects of this regression can carry on well into toddlerhood, by which point the baby and their parents are in a vicious cycle of catnapping and frequent night wakes and everyone is suffering the effects of sleep deprivation.
The good news?! You can teach your baby to link their sleep cycles. With some gentle sleep training and healthy sleep hygiene, no matter how old your child is, it's never too late to work on extending naps and linking sleep cycles.
By working on night wakes you’ll both feel more rested and ready to tackle extending and consolidating naps. Not only are long restorative naps great for your baby or toddler, it will also be a game changer for you. You won't know what to do with yourself when you suddenly have 2 hours in the day to yourself to cook, clean, catch up on some laundry, or better yet... relax on the couch with a hot cup of coffee and catch up on Netflix!
My Better Sleep Guide (4-8 months) will help you establish strong sleep foundations and set your baby up for sleep success!