One night, as I got up with my baby for at least the 12th (or maybe it was the 6,265th) time, I wondered how much longer this particular sleep regression would last. How long does a sleep regression last?
Sleep regressions can last anywhere from a few days up to 6 weeks. On average, most regressions last a couple of weeks. The length of the sleep regression depends on factors that include:
- the child’s disposition or nature;
- how well the baby sleeps normally;
- where everyone sleeps;
- family situation;
- parents’ interventions;
- quantity and quality of help the family can rely upon;
- what caused the sleep regression;
- underlying medical issues;
- and surprise factors that may pop up.
Even then, a baby may experience multiple sleep regressions of different lengths as these influencing factors change and evolve. So let’s talk more about how long sleep regressions last, how these factors affect the length, and what you can do about each of them.
Why Sleep Regressions Last Between Several Days and 6 Weeks
Sleep regressions can last anywhere from a few days up to six weeks. This is because there are so many influencing factors that have to be taken into consideration.
Let’s take a better look at just how those factors can influence the length of a sleep regression.
|Influencing Factor||Examples: When Sleep Regressions Will Last Longer||Examples: When Sleep Regressions Will End More Quickly|
|Child’s Personality||A stubborn child may refuse to self-soothe, making the sleep regression last longer.||A more easy-going child may self-soothe faster, leading to shorter sleep regressions.|
|Normal Sleep Patterns||A baby who normally has difficulty sleeping may take longer to get back to sleep normally.||Babies who previously slept well on their own may be able to return to that pattern faster.|
|Sharing a Room||The baby might wake up more, thanks to other’s sleep sounds. This could mean longer regressions.||Children may sleep better knowing they aren’t alone, experiencing a shorter sleep regression.|
|Not Sharing a Room||The baby might sleep more soundly without extra noises to disturb their sleep, getting back to their baseline quicker.||Children may have a harder time sleeping when they’re alone or need comfort. This could mean more frequent night wakings and longer sleep regressions.|
|Sleep Training Interventions||Children may not respond quickly or well to a particular sleep training style, leading to longer sleep regressions.||A baby may start sleeping better after a positive sleep training experience and get back to sleep better and faster.|
|Availability of Help||A lack of sufficient help can lead to increased parental anxiety or depression – leading to increased difficulty in managing sleep regressions.||Sufficient help means parents are getting adequate support – and maybe even naps! In turn, this gives parents increased resolve and ability to manage unexpected challenges.|
|Daycare||Daycare could be negatively impacting the daytime sleep routines and increasing sleep regressions.||Daycare may be managing daytime sleep issues that actually help shorten sleep regressions.|
|Underlying Medical Concerns||An otherwise healthy baby may get ill – and that may trigger a temporary sleep regression that lasts until they’re feeling better.||A medically complex child that gets ill may take longer to recover from both the illness and any associated sleep regression.|
|Cause: Developmental Milestone||Some children are able to quickly adapt to hitting milestones (like learning to crawl) and get back to sleep quickly.||Other babies aren’t able to adapt as quickly and may take several weeks to get back to sleeping well at night after hitting a milestone (like learning to crawl).|
|Cause: Time Change||Some children cannot tolerate an hour’s time change very easily. These babies require several days or weeks to adjust to the time change.||Some babies can deal with a time change (like Daylight Savings or travel) with minimal disruption to their sleep.|
|Cause: Change to Sleep Location||Some babies can only sleep in a limited number of places. Changing where they sleep may cause significant disruption and lengthy sleep regression while they adjust.||Some babies can sleep wherever they’re put down at night. Most only experience a few night’s sleep disruption when changed to a new sleeping place.|
These examples are designed to show the extremes in order to make things abundantly clear. Most babies will be on a spectrum somewhere between the two ends.
But since there are so many factors that do influence how a baby sleeps, changing multiple factors at once can have a profound impact on how they sleep.
Ways to Impact the Length of Your Child’s Sleep Regression
During a sleep regression, it’s totally normal for your driving motivation to be “how do we shorten this?” Getting back to the regular sleep routine can be critical to being able to function as a normal human being. It’s even more so when you’ve got a naturally difficult sleeper – and everyone’s already sleep-deprived!
Thankfully, there are meaningful ways you can help shorten your child’s sleep regression to the shortest length possible.
- Create a positive and restful sleeping environment.
- Be consistent in all of your efforts.
- When experimenting with changes to the sleeping status, only change one or two factors at a time.
- Use a bedtime and nap routine that helps ease each person into a sleep-ready state.
Of course, in order to implement these steps, you’ll first need to know your child’s likes, dislikes, and personality – as well as your own.
1. Create a positive and restful sleeping environment.
This is going to be different for every family and individual.
My children prefer a dark, cool, and neutral sleeping environment with a white noise machine and a fan. They prefer having a roomate. They can’t nap or sleep well except for in their own rooms. They may fall asleep while we’re driving in the car, but that sleep isn’t restful for them. They’ll wake up from that nap quite cranky.
Looking back, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at their preference. I prefer sleeping in a cool, dark, room as well. And both my husband and I like the soothing sound of white noise – as well as a fan being on.
But once we found their preferences – and made sure each child had a sibling roommate, nighttime sleeping both became much easier.
2. Consistency is key.
Being consistent as a parent is key to pretty much everything. Helping your child better enjoy the natural awesomeness that is sleep also requires consistency.
Because if you’re stressed about going to sleep (or getting them to sleep), they’re going to pick up on that stress. It will make them more anxious and unable to sleep. Which in turn will make you more anxious.
Instead, take a step back and look at ways to make things natural and consistent.
For us, that meant implementing a quieter and more natural-for-us bedtime routine, which I’ll talk about in a moment. It also meant having a regular family routine – both for daytime activities and bedtimes.
3. When experimenting with sleep, only change 1-2 factors at a time.
Experiments work best if you can see what worked – and what didn’t. That’s why, when you’re trying to see what works (or what doesn’t), you need to start with a plan.
Then, as it becomes more clear that the plan isn’t working, you can start changing it one piece at a time.
When we realized that our oldest child’s bedtime routine was backfiring (it was keeping him up!), we started with small changes. First, we moved his bath time out of the routine to right after dinner. Then, we moved story time to naps. Finally, we stopped singing songs except during playtime. The new, simplified bedtime routine of getting ready for bed, hugs, prayers, and lights out worked: he was ready to sleep.
That’s part of why a firstborn child’s first major sleep regression is such a shock – parenting is still so new to both adults. And everyone is still getting to know each other (baby included!).
If you’re in that situation, don’t stress. The first sleep regression (or several) may be important learning tools that can be used to help impact future regressions. Or they may help you figure things out for future children and their sleep regressions.
4. Use a bedtime routine that’s relaxing.
Finally, it’s important to use a bedtime routine that’s relaxing.
For some kids, taking a bath is relaxing. For others, it’s too stimulating and will actually wake them up.
Each child and will be different. It may take some time and experimenting to figure out what bedtime routine works for you.
Here’s the bedtime routine that works for us:
- Get ready for bed (put on jammies, brush teeth, go potty).
- Have family prayers and final scriptural thought for the night.
- Family hugs.
- Lights out, white noise machine and fans turned on, doors closed, and goodnight!
It’s a very simple bedtime routine, and that’s okay. Other families have more elaborate routines that work for them. Neither answer is right or wrong – it’s just what works and what doesn’t.
As long as it’s a routine that gets you and your children excited, ready, and able to sleep, that’s awesome. It may take some time to find what works best for you and your family.
What To Do About Sleep Regressions That Last for Weeks (and When to Ask for Help!)
Now, what do you do if that sleep regression lasts for weeks? Well, let’s talk about what you can do in those cases.
First, remember that long-lasting sleep regressions can be normal. Up to 6 weeks long can be normal. I know how awful long sleep regressions can be – they aren’t any fun.
With several of our kids, sleep regressions were so long that sometimes they ran together. One time, we’d almost gotten past the 11-month-old sleep regression with our son when he got sick. He was almost better when Daylight Savings hit – and another regression. Then he started teething. All told, it was several months before we got everyone back to sleeping better.
In that case, there were clear moments that new sleep regressions triggered – and it was always just as the current one was just starting to resolve! It was beyond frustrating. But, it was also totally understandable and explainable.
During that time, I relied on asking friends and family to make sure that I wasn’t losing it. They offered advice, ideas, and support that made me realize things were just fine.
I also talked to my pediatrician at well-child visits and checkups related to illness. They also helped me see that it was just a poorly-timed series of sleep regressions. And that it was awful.
That being said, everyone also reinforced the fact that it was always okay to ask for help when my mother’s intuition needed reassurance or otherwise.
And, when I needed some extra help keeping the house clean or catching up on sleep? Friends and family were there for me, too.
So as sleep regressions last forever, remember:
- Sleep regressions don’t last forever (they just seem like it!);
- It’s okay to ask friends and family for advice – just remember that you’re the expert on your family;
- Ask your pediatrician for advice, especially if your intuition tells you that something is wrong;
- An underlying medical condition may not be noticed or diagnosable until it becomes more visible during a sleep regression;
- Ask for help when you need it (or you’re too sleep-deprived to function).
Seriously – ask for help. Sometimes getting a break (or a nap) can mean the difference between surviving or shortening a sleep regression – or just saving your sanity.
After my oldest was born, it seems like he didn’t sleep for the first two weeks after we brought him home! I relied heavily on family and friends just so I could get enough sleep to stand up each day. It was hard to realize that I needed that much help – but over time, I adjusted.
Is It Possible to Shorten Sleep Regressions and Skip Them Entirely?
As you get better at identifying and managing sleep regressions, you might be able to significantly shorten sleep regressions, yes.
But I wouldn’t count on it at first. Because it’s going to take some time to figure out all of the factors that affect sleep regressions, as well as how to best manage them for your family. It’ll also take time to figure out bedtimes and your parenting style.
But once you get all of those figured out, it’s definitely possible to shorten sleep regressions.
With our third and fourth children, we were able to anticipate and prepare for common sleep regressions. Often, we were able to shorten them to just a few nights. Looking back, there were even several that we had prepared for so well that we didn’t recognize them as sleep regressions until well after the fact! So yes, it’s possible to shorten and skip some sleep regressions.
So as you’re surviving yet another sleep regression, best of luck. They won’t last forever – and you just may be able to make them shorter and less awful. Good luck!
Do All Babies Go Through Sleep Regression? Not every baby will experience every sleep regression. Most babies do experience major sleep regressions at 4, 8-10 months, and 18 months of age. For more information on when sleep regressions do happen, make sure to read my article on it right here.
Why Does Sleep Regression Happen? Sleep regressions are a sleep disturbance that happens as a child reaches a new milestone or significant life change.
How Do You Survive a Sleep Regression? Surviving sleep regressions most often requires planning, practice, help, sleep training, or some combination thereof.