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Getting Through the 4‑Month Sleep Regression

22nd January 2020

Slumber Centre

Here at Harrison Spinks, we like to think we’re experts in sleep, but truth be told, everyone is different and only you alone can know what works best for you. So, what do we do when it comes to helping babies and toddlers with sleep? 

With no easy way of finding out what they need or want, it can be a tricky task to get them into a routine that suits you and, more importantly, them. The early days of parenthood aren’t without their sleeping challenges, of course, but babies are noticeably sleepier in their first few months, with a quick snuggle often sending them soundly to sleep. A few months down the line and all that can change as your baby suddenly moves the goalposts on how and when they want to fall asleep. 

Welcome to the 4‑month sleep regression.

Signs of 4-month sleep regression

Signs of 4 month regression

How do you know if your baby is going through the 4-month sleep regression? The chances are if they’re experiencing one or more of the below symptoms around the age of 4 months, then sleep regression is in full flow.

  • Waking frequently in the night
  • Shorter naps during the day
  • Fussier behaviour
  • Changes in feeding patterns

It’s worth bearing in mind that sleep regression can happen earlier or later than 4-months, so keeping an eye on these things will help you recognise when and if it happens.

What is sleep regression?

Simply put, sleep regression is when a baby who normally sleeps well suddenly doesn’t. The result is a baby who wakes up frequently in the night, fights naptime and seems a little fussier than usual.

Sleep regression can seem like it comes out of nowhere, and despite what it feels like, it’s actually a sign of your baby becoming less sleepy and in need of a new routine.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening during this period:

  • Your baby is developing – It’s important to remember that there’s nothing wrong with your baby and sleep regression is just a sign of them developing into a new phase of sleep.
  • Their sleep pattern is changing – Newborn babies fall into deep sleep very easily and can often sleep through anything. After a few months, their sleep pattern begins to change with them drifting in and out of light and deep sleep much like adults do.
  • Your baby is less sleepy – With shorter naps and frequent disturbances during the night, their new sleep pattern is usually a sign your baby needs less sleep, not more.

Being better prepared for the 4-month sleep regression can put you in a good place for getting through it with your sleep (and sanity) intact.

How long does sleep regression last?

Once sleep regression hits, it can feel like it’s never going to end, but stay strong. The end will come!

All babies are different, so it’s important to stay in tune with what’s going on with your little one. Generally, it can take anywhere from two- to six- weeks for a baby in sleep regression to learn how to self-soothe.

Help with the 4-month sleep regression

Help with 4 month regression

There are lots of opinions out there on how to deal with the 4-month sleep regression, but in most cases, a little time and patience is all you need.

  • Getting used to darkness

Letting your baby become comfortable with darkness helps them to associate night-time as a time for sleep.

  • Strike when they’re drowsy

When your baby falls asleep in your arms instead of their cot, they’re not learning to fall asleep by themselves. Strike when they’re drowsy and put them to bed before they fall asleep.

  • Do less

Although it may go against your natural instincts, try to minimise how much you interact with your baby if they wake in the middle of the night. Talking, picking them up, and turning on the lights are all signals it’s time to wake up.

  • Set a new routine

When your baby changes their sleep pattern, it can be hard to get into the swing of a new routine. A regular routine with a bath and story each night will get them used to ‘bedtime’ as a concept. It doesn’t matter exactly what you do, but try to keep your routine as relaxing as possible and be consistent.

What to do when they get a little older

The early years of having children can feel like endless nights of no sleep as your little ones come to grips with sleeping on their own.

Things should settle down as they reach the toddler and pre-school phase, with new sleeping patterns continuing to emerge throughout their childhood. Keeping an eye on sleep cycles as they grow will help you know if something’s not right.

How much sleep do children need?

Recommended hours of sleep

As we know, every child is different when it comes to sleep. If you’re worrying about how much sleep a child needs on a regular basis, then stop!

Recommendations on the amount of sleep they need each night are available as a guide, but staying alert for any overnight changes will help you keep things in check.

  • New-borns (0-3 months) - 14 to 17 hours (incl. daytime)
  • Infants (4-11 months) - 12 to 15 hours (incl. daytime)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years) - 11 to 14 hours (incl. daytime)
  • Pre-schoolers (3-5 years) - 10 to 13 hours
  • School years (6-13 years) - 9 to 11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-16 years) - 8 to 10 hours

Causes of snoring children

It’s natural to worry about your child’s snoring and sleeping habits, but in most cases, it’s perfectly normal. Taking the time to find the cause of snoring in children will help you know if it’s a sign of something bigger or not.

Here are some of the most common causes for snoring in children:

  • Respiratory infection

Colds and allergies can block nasal passages and airways causing a rattling snore.

  • Deviated septum

This is when the tissue and cartilage between the nostrils are crooked and restricts the airflow. As well as snoring, this can also make breathing difficult too.

  • Swollen tonsils or enlarged adenoids

Tonsils and adenoids work hard to trap harmful bacteria. Sometimes though they can swell up causing children to snore.

  • Sleep Apnea

A more serious sleep disorder that causes irregular breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea is where breathing can stop for short amounts of time throughout the night and can result in a lack of oxygen.

Sleep disorders in children

It’s important to recognise if your child is suffering from a more serious sleep disorder as early as possible. Lack of sleep over long periods of time can start to affect other areas of their life, from poor behaviour to accidents and injuries.

Along with snoring, irregular breathing, difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, nightmares and daytime tiredness can be linked to sleep disorders in children.

Improving your child’s sleep

Only you can know what your child needs to help them get a good night’s sleep, but there are lots of tips and tricks you can do to get them off to a good start.

  • Stick to a regular and relaxing bedtime routine
  • Keep noise levels to a minimum
  • Make sure the bedroom temperature is comfortable
  • Keep the room dark, with a nightlight if necessary
  • Avoid larger meals and caffeine before bed
  • Restrict use of TVs, mobiles, tablets, and games around bedtime

Whilst your child’s sleep is crucial to their development, it’s important to remember that every parent goes through the same thing. Some days are better than others and that’s ok.

If you are worried that your child isn’t getting enough sleep, speaking to a medical professional can help.