Animated Illustration of an Infant Rolling in Its Bed

Infant Sleep Regressions
What’s Myth, What’s Fact, and How to Cope

by Jess Carpenter,  Expert Reviewed by Lori and Sara Strong

Disclaimer – Nothing on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment… Read More Here.

After the birth of my son, one of the most common questions I got was, “How is he sleeping?” I thought that people were just exaggerating about how tiring a new baby was; he started out sleeping long stretches and had no problems putting himself to sleep.

Right around four months, though, I started to understand what having a baby that never sleeps was like; sleepless nights turned into delirious days, naps were a distant memory, and diet coke was coursing through my veins.

After all the Google-ing, reading, and research, I found out that my child isn’t broken; most babies experience what many call “sleep regressions,” a period of time when infants’ resting habits change, night wakings occur, and naps often become shorter.

Section 1

What is Infant Sleep Regression?

Section 2

What can you expect at each sleep regression age?

Section 3

Are there long-term risks related to Infant Sleep Regression?

Section 4

Questions about Infant Sleep Regression to Ask Your Pediatrician

Section 5

How to Deal with Baby Sleep Regression

Section 6


What is Infant Sleep Regression?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, infant sleep regression1 is “a common phase when children slide backward regarding maintaining a consistent sleep pattern.” Your baby may have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, notes Kelsey Atkinson, founder of Kelsey Atkinson Counselling and Sleep Consulting.

Sleep regressions are very common, and many babies experience at least one while growing, so you’re not alone as a frustrated, exhausted parent.

When do Sleep Regressions Happen?

Sleep regression will vary for every baby, but it typically begins when an infant is around four months old2. A sleep regression period can last for up to six weeks before your baby returns to more typical sleep patterns.


The 4-month sleep regression is the biggest one, but there are also 6-month, 8-month, 12-month, and 18-month regressions.

What Causes Infant Sleep Regression?

Newborn babies sleep a lot, but their sleep is usually segmented into chunks of several hours at a time1. The reason new babies can’t sleep for longer periods, such as an entire night, is because their circadian rhythm (the body’s 24-hour clock) hasn’t developed yet1. Newborn babies are spending a lot of their sleeping time in deep sleep. As adults, our circadian rhythms are fully developed, which is why we’re able to sleep for longer than four hours at one time, and we cycle through each phase of the sleep cycle3.


The 4-month infant sleep regression occurs once babies begin spending less time in deep sleep and more time in the other phases of the sleep cycle, much like adults1. The Cleveland Clinic explains that “Adjusting to lighter phases of sleep can make babies more likely to wake up for a bit, leading to a temporary regression1.”


Stephanie Hewitt, founder of Stephanie Hewitt Sleep Consulting, explains that sleep regressions that occur after the 4-month regression are “usually due to growth and development such as rolling, sitting, pulling up, walking and talking, and awareness of separation.”

Is Infant Sleep Regression Real?

Type “sleep regression” into any search engine, and you’ll get millions of results. This term is commonly used among parents, doctors, and scientists, but it does create some misconceptions about what is actually happening to your baby.


Merriam-Webster4 defines regression as the “reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level”, but in reality, your baby is not forgetting what they have already learned or regressing at all. Rather, a sleep regression actually means your little one is continuing to learn and develop.


So many changes occur in the first two years of life: your child begins smiling, laughing, rolling over, developing a solid sleep cycle, sitting up on their own, crawling, walking and more.


During these developmental milestones, babies are constantly practicing these skills, attempting to master them, and research suggests5 that until they do, sleeping often takes a backseat.

Illustration of Exhausted Mother Holding Her Crying Baby

Rachel Gorton, certified infant and toddler sleep specialist, explains: “Even though these phases sometimes come with less sleep, they are important to your baby's emotional and physical development. In other words, they need to happen.”

What can you expect at each sleep regression age?

Sleep regression periods usually occur before a new skill is obtained, whether it’s developing a circadian rhythm or learning to crawl, but every baby is different and develops on a different timeline.


Whether your baby is going through these stages earlier, later, or not at all, this is totally normal. The American Pregnancy Association6 explains that even premature babies can catch up quickly and develop at a similar rate to full-term babies. As always, if you have any concerns about your child’s development, discuss them with their pediatrician.

4 Month Sleep Regression

Illustration of a Baby Waking up and Crying at 3am

As we discussed, four months is around the time that a baby can start to form their own sleep cycle that looks much like ours, albeit shorter1. After the newborn stage, infant rest becomes more predictable and cyclical; babies spend a lot more time in REM sleep7 than we do and can be awakened more easily during the stages of lighter sleep. As babies get used to lighter sleep stages, they may experience more night wakings1.

Learn more about the four stages of sleep.

Typical Baby Sleep Graph
Typical Adult Sleep Chart

There is a ton of brain growth happening, so, along with sleeping less, your baby might be extra hungry6. Plus, as time goes on, babies start to be much more aware of the world around them, which can cause distracted daytime feedings leading to more night wakings out of hunger6.

6 Month Sleep Regression

Baby Sitting up in the Crib Crying for their Parent Illustration

By the time your little one is six months old, they might begin to push up on all fours, start lifting their head while sleeping, have probably been rolling for a while, and can grab onto lots of objects6. All of these milestones are fun and exciting for your baby, which likely will make them less inclined to sleep and more excited to stay awake. Mobile babies feel a newfound sense of freedom.


Naps on the go are probably a no-no at this point, too. There might be a car nap here and there, but for the most part, your baby might be too interested in the exciting stuff going on around them to get some solid rest. Missing a nap throughout the day can cause a baby to be overtired, making them more difficult to put down for bed, or may cause midnight wakings.


Six-month-old babies also move from babbling to saying one-syllable sounds like “ma6.” As your baby finds their voice, they might be too chatty to fall asleep; after all, they can finally be a part of the conversation.

Along with being more vocal, your six-month-old will probably be teething, chewing, and biting6. The discomfort that accompanies teething9 may cause your baby to have difficulty falling or staying asleep.


Your six-month-old also may develop separation anxiety. Between four and eight months old, babies develop object permanence10, which means they know objects exist, even where they’re not within eyesight. They then develop a mental image of the object.

This means, then, that your baby now knows you exist, even if you exit their bedroom, but they can’t understand where you are. So, when you put them down for a nap and close the door, they do not understand that you are still close by.


Find out more detailsThe 6-Month-Old Sleep Regression – How To Help Your Little One

8 Month Sleep Regression

Illustration of a Baby Crawling with Toys all around Them
At eight months, your baby is probably in the beginning stages of cruising around, scooting, crawling, or even pulling themselves up6. They are probably playing with toys like never before, speaking multi-syllabic words, and fine-tuning their motor skills6.   Unfortunately, all these fun things can cause some issues with your baby’s sleep; for example, you might enter their room and find your baby pulling themselves up on the rails of their crib trying to practice standing instead of sleeping. After taking everything in throughout the day, falling asleep at night could be hard because your baby is overstimulated.   Your eight-month-old might also drop one of their naps, which could lead them to be overtired at bedtime while they are getting used to fewer naps during the day. This sleep regression is pretty variable and can occur anywhere between eight and 10 months.

12-Month Sleep Regression

At 12 months, your baby will soon be taking their first step and saying more words6. They are also probably becoming increasingly interested in reading and practicing understanding language even if they are not fully talking quite yet, and they have likely heard the word “no” a time or two6. As fun as this stage is, the way that your baby is recognizing and interacting with their surrounding environment can make sleeping seem boring.
Illustration of a Baby Taking His First Steps

One-year-olds are growing rapidly and might show signs of being hungrier than normal, refusing their second nap, and protesting bedtime6. Most kiddos are not ready to drop to one nap at this age despite their vehement denial. This sleep regression period can occur between 10 and 12 months old. Like other sleep regressions, this period should only last a couple of weeks at most, so try to stick it out.

In case it happens earlier you can read our guide for managing an 11-month regression here.

18-Month Sleep Regression

Baby sleep can fall by the wayside at this age, while more developmental milestones are going on. Some milestones your toddler will experience at 18 months old are drinking from a cup, climbing onto a chair on their own, and following one-step directions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention11.

The sudden need to be independent can create some issues when it comes to putting them down; when your baby feels like they no longer have a choice of what to do, the crib might feel more like a prison than a place to get cozy11.

While it is normal, this stage can feel like it is the most difficult because with personality comes the ability to be defiant.

Baby Girl Crying Looking over Dads Shoulder Illustration
Age Possible Developmental Changes Average Day Sleep Average Night Sleep
4 months
  • Rolling
  • Sleep cycles
  • Growth spurts
  • 4-5 hours 9-10 hours
    6 months
  • Social awareness
  • Separation anxiety
  • Teething
  • Babbling
  • No more naps on the go
  • 4 hours 10 hours
    8 months
  • Practicing fine-motor skills
  • Babbling
  • Separation anxiety
  • Scooting or crawling
  • Pulling themselves up
  • 3-4 hours 11 hours
    12 months
  • Taking steps
  • Language development
  • 3 hours 11 hours
    18 months
  • Independence
  • Walking
  • Language development
  • Dropping to one nap
  • 2.5 hours 11 hours
    Source:Infant Sleep12

    Are There Long-term Risks Related to Sleep Regression?

    illustration of a flustered woman taking care of two kids

    No, there are no long-term risks related to infant sleep regression. Sleep regressions are temporary and once milestones are reached, baby sleep patterns generally return to normal or improve. During these regressions, though, bad habits or coping techniques can be formed, which can lead to some potentially dangerous situations.


    Bed sharing, falling asleep while holding your baby, and using a swing or rock-n-play for unsupervised sleep are all against the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) guidelines for safe sleep13 and can potentially lead to suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Although these long, sleepless nights during your baby’s regressions are seemingly endless, try to remember that it is temporary.

    Questions about Infant Sleep Regression to Ask Your Pediatrician

    Pediatrician Checking Baby in Mother's Lap

    Does sleep training work?

    Baby sleep training14, or “the process of your baby learning to fall asleep by themselves”, is a hot topic among parents, but the Duke Department of Pediatrics15 has found sleep training to be effective and safe. There are many different methods and no shortage of books and blogs about sleep training; generally, it works best when your baby is around four months old14. Be sure to ask your doctor about their opinion and what might work best for your child.

    Crying for more than three nights! Help!

    A common sleep training method is to let your munchkin “cry it out,” meaning your kiddo has to learn how to fall asleep on their own, without intervention14. For some, letting your baby cry it out is quick and easy, but each family is unique. When choosing a sleep training method, regardless of which technique you're using, the degree of crying could coincide with how long the child has been accustomed to the approach, and your family may need more than three days to get used to the new routine14. If letting your little one cry it out doesn't feel right for you, chat with your pediatrician about alternative approaches.

    Could the problem be something else?

    Sleep regressions are a sign of normal development, but sometimes other issues could be causing additional sleeping difficulties. Acid reflux, teething, and growth spurts are among the few things that can interfere with a good rest9. If your baby is still struggling after a week or two into their sleep regression, discuss your concerns with a doctor.

    How to Deal with Baby Sleep Regression

    Natural development will cause your infant to be more interested in what is going on around them, so external light and sound might be disturbing his or her sleep. Be sure to keep their room extra dark with blackout curtains or blinds for optimal rest, and drown out sounds like the doorbell ringing or your dog barking with a sound machine.

    Babies are generally not scared of the dark, and white noise17 often helps them sleep better by reminding them of similar sounds they heard in the womb.

    Consider Getting Help

    While hiring a nanny for these sleep regressions probably isn’t in the cards for most, enlisting help can be helpful. You and your partner may want to split the night shift so that losing sleep is not quite so detrimental.

    If you are a single parent, consider asking a family member or friend if they can watch your baby for a couple of hours while you catch up on some shuteye. Most loved ones would probably be happy to help, and those couple of hours can make a huge difference.

    Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine

    A Father Giving Baby a Bath Illustration

    Babies, just like adults, thrive on routine, and implementing regular habits is a perfect way to make bedtime easier. Research shows16 shows that bedtime routines lead to fewer night wakings in both infants and toddlers in just a matter of days.


    Regular feedings, baths, or a book before bed could help your baby understand when it is time to wind down. Atkinson suggests creating a soothing sleep environment for your baby by ensuring the bedroom is “calm, comfortable, and conducive to sleep”, along with using “a white noise machine, blackout curtains, a lovey or stuffed animal to help create a soothing and calm atmosphere.”

    Whatever you decide to put into practice, make sure you stick to it to keep nights as predictable as possible.


    Keep in mind that switching to an earlier bedtime while keeping your routine intact could improve your situation. “Many children experiencing sleep regressions are overtired because of short naps or night wakings,” according to sleep expert Lori Strong. She explains that “a temporary earlier bedtime [could] help keep children rested.”

    Increase Daytime Feedings

    As your baby becomes more associated with the world around them, feedings start to get a lot less exciting. Unfortunately, if your baby doesn’t get enough to eat during the day, they are probably going to wake up due to hunger at night.


    If distracted eating is a recurring issue, try feeding in a dark, quiet, unstimulating environment.


    By making sure they are getting enough to eat during the day, you can be reassured that those night wakeups are probably not for hunger and address the real issue at hand.

    Experiment with Bedtimes

    Putting your baby down at the right time might just be the most important part of getting a good rest; a baby that is not tired yet will refuse to sleep, but overtired babies can be impossible to calm down. Getting that happy medium is important for the best rest.


    There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to bedtime, so trial and error will serve you well. Every baby is different, and each one needs a different amount of rest. Stanford scientists recommend you try to plan a bedtime that blocks out around 10 to 12 hours of nighttime sleep12. Patience is key.

    Light and Sound-Proofing

    Woman Putting up Curtains in the Nursery Illustration

    Natural development will cause your infant to be more interested in what is going on around them, so external light and sound might be disturbing his or her sleep. Be sure to keep their room extra dark with blackout curtains or blinds for optimal rest, and drown out sounds like the doorbell ringing or your dog barking with a sound machine.


    Babies are generally not scared of the dark, and white noise17 often helps them sleep better by reminding them of similar sounds they heard in the womb.

    Avoid Caving to Bad Habits

    While it might be easier in the short term to bring your baby into your bed or nurse or rock your baby to sleep every time he or she cries, this can create some crutches that they might start to rely on. Ultimately, your baby will be a better sleeper if they can fall asleep on their own in their own bed, but during these regressions, getting up five, six, or 20 times a night can be draining.

    Stick to your guns and know that this phase is only temporary. If you find yourself wanting to co-sleep, the AAP recommends sharing a room18 rather than the same bed.

    Practice Self-Care

    Full Body Massage- Illustration

    To be the best parent or caregiver you can be, taking care of yourself is key. Know when you need a break and ask for help before your breaking point. If you can’t nap, try to get out of the house, grab yourself a smoothie, get a massage, or spend some time with friends.

    Remind yourself that this is a completely normal and temporary part of your child’s development.

    Infant Sleep Regression FAQs

    How long does sleep regression last?

    Your child may experience sleep regressions from the time they are four months old until they are 18 months old. Each of these regressions can last anywhere from a few days to six weeks2. Every baby is different, so try not to compare your baby to other children around their age.

    How long does 4-month old sleep regression last?

    The length of the four-month sleep regression will depend on your baby and can last anywhere from a few days to around six weeks2. The four-month sleep regression is the biggest sleep regression due to the development of the circadian rhythm, so it may last longer than other regressions that your baby experiences2.

    Do all babies go through sleep regression?

    While sleep regressions are very common among babies, not all babies go through sleep regressions2. Remember, every child is different.


    As a parent, I am constantly surprised by how much I don’t know, but the thing that gets me through the tough times is knowing that I am not the only parent going through these ups and downs.

    Remember that regressions are a regular part of development and are necessary for kids to learn and grow. Try out the tips we’ve listed above to help you navigate these sleep challenges and be sure to find ways to take care of your own sleep and well-being as well.

    Jess Carpenter
    Jess Carpenter

    Jess is only serious about a few things in life: sleeping, writing, and making the perfect chocolate chip cookie. In her free time, you’ll probably find her having a dance-off to ‘80s pop with her family or watching scary movies with her cat, Waffles.

    Lori and Sara Strong<br> <span class="job-title">Child Sleep Consultants</span>
    Lori and Sara Strong
    Child Sleep Consultants

    Sara and Lori Strong are certified infant and child sleep consultants for sleep-deprived parents. They work with families to develop individualized, customized plans to tackle sleep issues, ensuring all recommendations are safe, effective, and backed by scientific research.

    Sara has an extensive background in speech-language pathology in acute and out-patient care. Lori is an award-winning Child Sleep Consultant with over 20 years of coaching experience. She serves on the Family Sleep Institute faculty and has been featured in national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.



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    2. “Understanding and Navigating Sleep Regressions”. Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. Webpage accessed July 26, 2023. 
    3. “Sleep”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified June 19, 2023. 
    4. “Regression”. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Last modified July 20, 2023. 
    5. Scher, Anat., Cohen, Dina., “V. Sleep as a Mirror of Developmental Transitions in Infancy: The Case of Crawling”. Society for Research in Child Development. 2015.
    6. “First Year Infant Development”. American Pregnancy Association. Webpage accessed July 26, 2023. 
    7. “Newborn-Sleep Patterns”. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Webpage accessed July 26, 2023. 
    8. “Baby's Sleep Explained – Why Do They Wake Up So Often!”. Teal Bee. 2020.
    9. “Teething”. Seattle Children’s. Last modified July 25, 2023.
    10. McLeod PhD, Saul. “What Is Object Permanence According To Piaget?”. Simply Psychology. Last modified June 16, 2023. 
    11. “Important Milestones: Your Child By Eighteen Months”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified June 6, 2023. 
    12. “Infant Sleep”. Stanford Medicine Children’s Health. Webpage accessed July 26, 2023. 
    13. MoonMD, Rachel Y., Carlin MD, Rebecca F., Hand MD, Ivan. “Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2022 Recommendations for Reducing Infant Deaths in the Sleep Environment”. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2022.
    14. “When and How To Sleep Train Your Baby”. Cleveland Clinic”. 2021.
    15. Nazareth-Pidgeon, Kristina. “Infant safe sleep: What you need to know about getting your baby to sleep safely”. Duke University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. 2020.
    16. Mindell, Jodi A., Leichman, Erin S., et al. “Implementation of a nightly bedtime routine: How quickly do things improve?”. Science Direct. 2017.
    17. Spencer, J. A., Moran, D. J., et al. “White noise and sleep induction”. National Library of Medicine. 1990.
    18. “American Academy of Pediatrics Updates Safe Sleep Recommendations: Back is Best”. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2022.
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