How To Know If This Is The Four-Month Sleep Regression And What To Do About It

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Is This The Four-Month Sleep Regression?

Why is my baby waking every hour or two in the night? Or popping back wide awake when I lay them down for sleep? And now my baby can’t nap longer than 20 or 30 minutes! Why is my baby’s sleep so unpredictable? I never know what’s going to happen, night after night! Are you asking yourself these questions? If so, you may be experiencing the dreaded four-month regression.


What Are Signs?

Your baby was sleeping longer stretches at night. Then they started waking several times a night, all over again. On top of it all, now they take longer and longer to fall asleep at bedtime. Or they pop back open wide awake as soon as you lay them down asleep.

The Four-Month Regression Is A Sleep Milestone.

The four-month sleep regression is in fact, not a regression at all. It is a sleep milestone. Baby’s sleep patterns become more adult-like, and they stay that way for the rest of their life.


Newborn Sleep Is Different

When your baby was a newborn, chances are they could fall asleep faster than now. Chances are, it was easier to get your child to fall asleep than it is now. You could rock your baby, nurse your baby, or bounce your baby to sleep. Most newborns fall asleep faster than older babies. Newborns also stay asleep when transferred from an in-arms position.

Newborn Sleep Patterns

The National Sleep Foundation says that newborn babies spend 50% of their sleep time in REM sleep. They spend the other 50% in NREM, which is quiet sleep. Adults spend only 20 to 25 percent of the night in REM sleep. This means that newborns cycle faster through the lighter stages of sleep. It’s easier and faster for them to fall asleep and they are less likely to wake when transferred.


Babies’ Sleep Patterns Change

By six months, babies spend only 30% of their sleep in REM. Around the third or fourth month of a baby’s life, their brain begins to mature. Their sleep patterns become more adult-like.
Baby spends less total sleep time in REM. It takes longer to move from Stage 1 Sleep, (the lightest of the sleep stages) to Stage 2 sleep. Stage 3 is deep sleep.
If your baby wakes shortly after going to sleep, they haven’t quite made it to deeper sleep. It’s most likely that the change in environment roused them from a sleep state.
They may have fallen asleep in an in-arms position, to have woken in their beds. Or they may have fallen asleep (or become drowsy) in another manner, only to wake shortly after. Their perceived environment is different when they wake, and the change is startling.

How Can I Help My Baby Sleep Better?

It can be troubling for both the child and the parent if they don’t know how to go back to sleep.
And because this regression is a sleep milestone, it doesn’t end on its own one day. But babies can learn to connect their sleep cycles and start to sleep much better.
We all experience normal, partial arousals in the night. Adults wake 2 to 8 times a night. Because most of us know how to get ourselves back to sleep, we are rarely aware of waking.

Teach Self-Soothing

If a child hasn’t had practice going from drowsy to asleep on their own, it can become a problem. It isn’t that your baby now wakes more often. It’s that they don’t know how to get back to sleep on their own. They look for whatever has helped them go to sleep. These things are their “sleep props.” Sleep props are most often parent-led sleep associations. Bouncing, cuddling, rocking, nursing, bottles, and more.

 Help Children Learn To Connect Sleep Cycles

To be clear, these actions may not be a problem unless someone in the family suffers sleep loss because of it. When a baby takes a long time to fall asleep, it can cause sleep loss. When a baby (healthy and well-fed) wakes and needs something external to go back to sleep, it can cause sleep loss. This is when it can become necessary for children to learn to fall asleep on their own. We can help them learn to connect sleep cycles and sleep through the night.

Help Children Learn To Fall Asleep Without Sleep Props

Is a parent-led sleep association or “sleep prop” interfering with your child’s sleep? If so, one of the best things you can do for your family’s sleep is to put your child to bed awake. This way, they can learn how to go to sleep on their own. You can stay with them, comforting and soothing them as they learn. You can pat, shush, pick up, and rub their tummy or back.
It will only take a few more times, and some comfort during night waking, for them to sleep without the prop. This way, they will learn how to connect the steps for returning to sleep. They will begin to sleep a solid night, which will be so much better for them and for your entire family.
If you are finding that you are struggling through this time, or that you never found your way out of it, I’m here to help. Reach out by email or book a complimentary call, and we can dive deeper into your child’s unique sleep situation.

I hope you enjoy this blog post. If you want me to help with your child’s sleep, just book a call. 

Kim Rogers, Pediatric Sleep Consultant

Written by Kim Rogers

Kim Rogers, M.A., is an advocate for children's mental health, maternal mental health, secure attachment, and healthy family systems. She has a certificate in Infant Mental Health from IMPH and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. She has completed the 2020 MOM Project for Maternal Mental Health. Kim is a Pediatric Sleep Consultant and the founder of Sleeping Well Consulting. Kim works one-on-one with families as a sleep coach and parent coach. Book a Complimentary Discovery Call Today

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