Sleep regressions are inevitable - no matter how great of a sleeper you have, but you don’t have to just suffer through them! Today is a throwback episode where I share how to handle a sleep regression and when you’ll know if it’s more than just a regression.
You don’t want to miss:
The 5 top ways to get you through any sleep regression.
How to build an age-appropriate schedule.
How to potentially shorten a regression.
PLUS, how to tell whether you’re facing a sleep regression or a sleep problem!
Links and resources:
Blog post: 5 Tips to Ease Sleep Regression Struggles
Blog post with a link to download the room checklist: Creating the Perfect Sleep Environment
Find your child's wake windows here!
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Grab your Free Nap Transitions and Sleep Regressions Guide here
Tip 1: Independent sleep
When it comes to sleep regressions and handling getting through them, a lot of it depends on how sleep was prior to the sleep regression. If your child was sleeping independently before a regression hits, it is going to be a lot easier for them to move through that regression and come out the other side still an independent sleeper. You'll also have more confidence knowing that they know how to do this, too.
If you're moving into a regression and your child is not an independent sleeper, that's ok, too! Especially at that four month regression. Typically little ones are not independent sleepers at that point because they are just coming out of those newborn days where they need more help.
So, no matter what age they are and they're going into a regression, there's no shame in how they get to sleep! But, having an independent sleeper is the most helpful.
Whether you have an independent sleeper or not, the other tips will be helpful in guiding you through those sleep regressions to the other side of it, helping encourage an independent sleeper.
If you need or want help teaching your child to sleep independently, I'm here for you! You can schedule a no strings attached call here to learn more!
Wait... Is this a sleep regression?
Before we even get into the rest of the tips, I want to help you define whether or not you're actually in a sleep regression.
Unfortunately, the only way to really know is to wait it out.
Remember, a sleep regression can last anywhere between two to six weeks. So we want to wait at least two weeks before we say, okay, this is for sure a sleep regression.
The reason we want to wait and not just make sudden changes, especially with -- spoiler alert tip number one -- the schedule and wake windows is because if it isn't a sleep regression or if they're not ready to have a schedule change, we don't want to be confusing them or making things harder.
The other tips you can definitely implement any time, whether it's a regression or not.
Tip 2: Check their schedule
If it's been at least 2 weeks of off sleep, check their schedule and/or wake windows.
I don't suggest firm, by the clock schedules until the child is taking two naps, around six to eight months old. So, before that, they're following wake windows and having some sort of predictability.
Wake windows aren't just some arbitrary numbers some sleep consultant threw out, but they're based on sleep pressure. Sleep pressure is the increased need to sleep the longer we've been awake. So, a wake window is the ideal amount of time a child can stay awake without crashing or moving into that second wind where they're either hyperactive or overly alert.
Following these wake windows are helpful through a sleep regression because you're working with your child's body's need for sleep.
Having routines around sleep times are super helpful, too, because they give predictability and help your child know what to expect. Most children thrive off of that predictability.
So, those routines and sticking with the wake windows or schedule is very helpful with that.
Tip 3: Opportunities to practice new skills
The next thing that I would recommend doing to get through the sleep regression is to give them plenty of opportunities during wake times to practice their new skills.
Like I mentioned in the last episode, a lot of times, the sleep regressions coincide with some sort of developmental growth, whether mentally, physically, or a bit of both.
So, we want to give them ample opportunity to practice their new skills during their wake times to deter them from practicing so much during the quiet time when they're in their crib and should be sleeping.
Now, this isn't a foolproof method. It doesn't mean they won't practice when they should be sleeping, but, hopefully, at least, you'll give them enough opportunities while they're awake that they will not want to be doing it during their nap time or at bedtime.
For example, a little one I just worked with is learning to pull up. So, instead of wanting to sleep, they're wanting to pull up in the crib. One thing I recommended to do was during wake time, hang out in their bedroom just a little bit. We don't want to spend our whole wake time in their room, but letting them practice pulling up in the crib some during wake time can fade the luster enough that they won't want to during sleep times. So, for example, if you're in there putting away clothes, let them practice in their crib.
If they're super early on in learning a skill, then you can give a little guidance. Keep it as minimal as possible so they're still doing it on their own for the most part, but you're just guiding them and directing them.
Once they master the skill, they'll sleep better. (Then they'll move on to then another skill that they'll want to be trying to learn while they should be sleeping. 🤪)
Also, keeping them out of "containers" (anything that keeps babies/children contained. Like a swing, bumbo seat, chair, etc.) will help them master their new skills quicker. Floor time, even if you need to use a pack and play or play yard to keep your child safe from puppies or older siblings, gives them free range of motion to learn.
Another great thing to help if your child is learning to roll, use a swaddle blanket.
Take the blanket and fold it corner to corner to make a big triangle.
Then roll it slightly so it's long and sturdy.
Lie your child either on their belly or back, whichever they're most comfortable with at the time, near one end of the blanket.
Wrap the swaddle blanket ends around your hands so you have a firm grasp and gradually guide them to roll by lifting one side of the blanket.
Go slowly so you're just initiating the rolling motion and allow them to complete it/do as much of it as they physically can.
This gives them a feel for what it's like to roll over and helps them strengthen the appropriate muscles needed to do it on their own.
Tip 4: Spend plenty of time in the sunlight/outside
Spending time outside in the sunlight, especially in the early morning hours, stimulates the production of the sleep-helping hormone melatonin and continues to solidify the circadian rhythm.
So many systems of our bodies thrive off of the stimulation of light. So, having time outside is really going to help with not only their sleep, but just about every other system in their body!
If it is very cold (or very hot!) where you are, or just not an ideal time to be outside with your little one, then you can use a light box! (Something like this!)
Side note: Can you sleep train during a sleep regression?
A common question I get about sleep regressions is if you can sleep train during it. My answer is yes! (Thankfully, because there are quite a few that happen in the early ages!)
Having the consistency and predictability of sleep training, along with dropping any unhelpful sleep props, can further help your little one move through the regression, get great sleep, gain that ability to sleep independently!
Sometimes a sleep regression can happen due to the fact that the sleep props that they have, that were once helpful, are no longer helpful. They're crying out for you for help to get them to sleep, but what used to work no longer does. Now you're both just frustrated and not sleeping well. Sleep training's the main goal is to help children learn to sleep on their own, without the need of any sort of external help they cannot retrieve on their own.
Tip 5: Create an ideal sleep environment
Lastly, be sure that your child's sleep environment is ideal for sleep. The sleep environment is something that you're not going to have to continue to go back into their room to fix. It's a helpful sleep prop.
For example, the room needs to be 100% pitch black dark for naps and nights. This is something that though isn't coming from within your child that they're learning to do, but it's something that you're not going to have to go in repeatedly to change or help. (Here's a download for you that give you ideas on how to completely black out your child's room inexpensively.)
It's set for their whole sleep time.
Another thing is to have white noise running through the entire sleep time at a level that will drown out outside noise and creates a soothing space.
Also having the room set at a cool temperature with, possibly, a fan. (Side note: There's been evidence that having a fan blowing during sleep can reduce the likelihood of SIDS.)
At age one, they can have a lovey to snuggle. But before that, there should be nothing in the crib, only a fitted sheet. They can wear a sleep sack once they're out of the swaddle, both of which are great sleep cues and add comfort.
I know sleep regressions can be hard! But, with these tips (and any extra support you might need!), you and your little one will make it through!
For even more help with sleep regressions (in a pretty format), you can grab your free guide here:
You got this, Mama!