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.
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.