Around the age of 3-4 months, infants frequently undergo a significant alteration in their sleeping behaviors. As babies move away from their newborn stage and their sleeping routines begin to establish a degree of predictability, they might experience a sudden change. This may manifest as a surge in nocturnal wakefulness, abbreviated naps, irritability, or obstinacy towards falling asleep. The 4 month sleep regression is usually held responsible for these symptoms.
What Is a Sleep Regression?
Although we hope our baby’s sleep will improve with age, it doesn’t always follow a linear pattern. There will be occasions when their sleep is good and times when it appears to worsen or regress.
A sleep regression refers to a period of time when your infant experiences an abrupt shift in their typical sleep habits, leading to instances of interrupted sleep during the night, shortened or missed naps, or waking up earlier than usual in the morning.
Sleep regressions typically coincide with developmental progress. Along with a sleep regression, you might observe your child mastering fresh abilities.
Growth spurts and external factors can also be responsible for sleep regressions. Sleep regressions occur during significant developmental stages of the baby’s life and can be caused by various factors like sickness, anxiety, teething, travel, and other changes happening externally.
It is crucial to realize that experiencing sleep regressions is an ordinary aspect of your baby’s development, and acknowledging this fact can assist you in managing your anticipation when such regressions arise.
4-Month Sleep Regression Signs
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Increased crying or fussiness
- Naps become less predictable
- Sleeping fewer hours in total
- Waking up more frequently
The 4-Month Sleep Regression
The 4-month sleep regression is particularly difficult for parents because it is often their baby’s initial experience with disturbed sleep. Despite improving slightly at 3 months, infants may begin experiencing disruptions again around the 4-month stage, leading to multiple nighttime awakenings.
Parents may feel disoriented by this, but having the ability to identify when their child is experiencing a sleep regression can provide them with a valuable sense of control and relief. Understanding the signs of a regression can help to maintain their sanity.
You may notice some indications that your baby is entering the 4-month sleep regression, such as increased sleep disruptions and frequent nighttime awakenings.
Moreover, your infant could encounter challenges in regards to sleeping soundly throughout the night and may struggle to initially fall asleep. Even their daytime napping routine may become problematic, where it could become a challenge to put your baby down for a nap and their schedule may become less consistent.
A very unhappy baby (and parent too!) can result from all these factors, leading them to become exhausted and struggling to fall asleep, resulting in crankiness. However, this is a normal and temporary part of your baby’s development.
Causes of a 4-Month Sleep Regression
At the age of 4 months, your baby’s nap routine undergoes some maturation. Before reaching this phase, their sleep patterns were regulated by wake windows, lacking a proper circadian rhythm that caused their sleep to mix with daytime and nighttime.
As they reach approximately 4 months of age, their circadian rhythms start to resemble those of adults, allowing them to eventually achieve deeper and more prolonged sleep.
This also implies that they will experience increased instances of transitioning between lighter and deeper sleep, which can pose difficulties. As their circadian rhythm matures, they enter into lighter stages of sleep and become more susceptible to being awakened.
At 4 months old, your baby undergoes various physical and developmental modifications that impact sleep, in addition to alterations in their circadian rhythms.
One reason why sleep regression is common in four-month-old babies is due to significant developmental changes, such as rolling over and reaching for objects. Additionally, teething can also have a significant effect on a baby’s sleep patterns at this age.
At this age, your baby may also experience a growth spurt and may be susceptible to illnesses or disruptions in their daily routine. Consequently, there are many factors that can affect their sleep and create chaos.
8 tips to overcome the 4 month old sleep regression
As sleep is crucial for both the development of the brain and general well-being, it is imperative to ensure that no one unnecessarily misses out on it. Regardless of whether you have noticed any changes in your sleep pattern, there are steps you can take to make the transition seamless.
1. Establish a consistent bedtime routine.
Having a consistent routine before nap and bedtime can be a successful strategy for signaling to your infant when it is time to sleep. A peaceful and anticipated regimen can also aid in calming your baby and preparing them for rest.
The usual bedtime procedure may consist of nursing with breastmilk or formula, taking a bath, switching into fresh attire and sleepwear, and listening to a story before going to sleep. When these tasks are carried out in a specific sequence every time, kids can anticipate the upcoming event, leading to a heightened feeling of protection. This, in turn, facilitates the process of dozing off.
2. Encourage baby to fall asleep in their safe sleep space.
To prevent babies from waking up frequently during the night, it is beneficial to assist them in acquiring the habit of falling asleep in the same conditions they will be in for the duration of the night. If you desire that your baby spends most of the night in their crib, then it is advisable to allow them to practise falling asleep in that particular place. If your baby tends to fall asleep on your arms or any other sleep surface, you should provide them with ample time and prospects to adapt to dozing off in the favoured sleep area.
3. Give them space to practice falling asleep on their own.
Teaching your infant to sleep on their own is crucial in minimizing the effects of the 4 month regression. Infants who can drift off without external assistance, like being rocked, patted, or fed to sleep, can utilize those same abilities to connect sleep cycles at night and following brief naps. This leads to longer periods of rest. If you are in the thick of the 4 month sleep regression, your baby will most likely need extra help from you to accomplish this. Overtime you can slowly, reduce yourself as the sleep crutch.
4. Keep the bedroom dark.
One of our top inventions is blackout curtains. As light exposure assists in setting our internal clocks to wake up, a completely dark bedroom can lead to extended naps and delayed awakenings, mainly when there is natural light outside.
Following the 4 month regression, infants have a tendency to experience shallow sleep in the early morning hours, which makes them susceptible to waking up easily. If a baby is exposed to light during this time, it can instruct their body to wake up early every morning. Dimming the room’s light can be beneficial in preventing sunlight from causing your little one to wake up early. Moreover, a dark room can help extend nap time. As babies mature in their sleep habits, they tend to awaken after a single sleep cycle. If the environment around them is too illuminated, they may get distracted and become fully awakened. A dark environment can facilitate continuation of their sleep cycle and enable them to fall back asleep.
5. Pay attention to wake windows
Although it might seem logical that babies should simply doze off whenever they feel sleepy, this is not always the case. Babies tend to fall asleep most effectively when they are tired, but not overly exhausted. If babies stay up for too long, they are more likely to cry excessively at bedtime and struggle to both fall and stay asleep due to hormonal imbalances. However, if babies are given the opportunity to sleep within the appropriate time frame, they are more likely to sleep for longer periods and drift off more easily. While sleepy signals may help indicate when the best time for sleep is, not all babies provide such clear indications. Additionally, some babies may display signs of sleepiness, but by the time you have completed your night-time routine, the opportunity for sleep may have passed and the baby is now wide awake.
6. Don’t rush in
It’s common for babies to be noisy while sleeping. If you notice your child becoming restless in between sleep cycles, don’t automatically assume they require your assistance. Often, they will fall back asleep of their own accord after a few moments if allowed to do so.
7. Evaluate hunger.
If your baby suddenly begins waking up frequently during the night, you may question whether they require food or simply desire to soothe themselves by sucking. Additionally, a lot of babies go through a growth spurt during this period and may genuinely need to eat more. Between the ages of 3 – 4 months, a significant number of babies may still necessitate one to three feedings at night, provided they are healthy and have good weight progression. Being awakened more frequently is frequently due to a sleep association or overtiredness. Check if they have a habit of falling asleep while being fed. If they fall asleep while nursing or being fed, they will be more probable to seek that support when they awaken between sleep cycles throughout the night. Consider if you can give more milk or formula during the day to alleviate actual hunger at night. You may offer longer or more frequent feedings during the day, cluster feed before bedtime, or give a dream feeding before your bedtime. Consult with your pediatrician and/or lactation consultant to discuss your child’s specific dietary requirements.
8. Be patient (with baby and yourself).
There are plenty of steps you can take to improve your baby’s sleep around 3 – 4 months old. However, don’t expect sleep to be flawless at this age. Not all babies can learn to consistently fall asleep on their own yet. This skill takes time, and not all babies are physiologically able to do so until 5 – 6 months of age. Babies this age typically aren’t ready to sleep for 10 – 12 hours straight without some help. Likewise, you’re likely to continue to see some short naps for a while. While some babies are capable of amazing feats of sleep at 3 – 4 months old, most of us will need to continue to give our babies the space to practice without expecting perfection.
When to Call a Healthcare Provider
It is common for infants to experience phases of poor sleep and frequent awakenings at night, despite periods of improved sleep in between. Such occurrences usually do not stem from a medical condition, but are simply a natural aspect of infant sleep.
In certain situations, alterations in sleeping habits may require contacting your child’s doctor, particularly when paired with additional worrisome indications.
If you notice that your baby is displaying behavior that is uncharacteristic of their usual habits, such as excessive sleepiness or irritability, difficulty in being soothed upon waking up, or a decrease in their appetite or fluid consumption lasting for more than a couple of weeks, it is recommended that you contact their pediatrician.
Signs that sleep troubles may be present in infants could be manifested as colic, food sensitivities, abnormalities in the respiratory system, enlarged adenoids, or gastroesophageal reflux.
Whenever you sense that something is wrong with your infant (you know that gut feeling), do not hesitate to contact their healthcare provider. It is crucial to call your healthcare provider when you feel that something is amiss and be extra cautious.
4 month sleep regression FAQ
Q: Do all babies have a sleep regression at 4 months?
There are babies who encounter sleep disturbances at three to five months while others remain unaffected.
Q: Does the 4 month sleep regression pass?
Indeed, as soon as a baby acquires the ability to drift off without assistance, they generally sleep for extended durations during the night.
Q: Why is my 4 month old baby not sleeping?
Between 3 and 5 months of age, there is a development in the sleep cycle that may lead to increased awakenings during the night and shorter daytime naps for babies. This is particularly noticeable when a baby depends on parental assistance to drift off to sleep or is excessively tired at bedtime.
Q: How can I prepare for the 4 month sleep regression?
To assist your baby in developing the ability to fall asleep on their own, introduce them to their sleeping area while they are drowsy but not yet asleep. When a baby consistently achieves sufficient daytime rest and self-sufficiency in sleeping, they are more likely to maintain good sleep habits as they grow.
Q: Do all babies experience a sleep regression at 4 months?
It is not accurate to say that some babies don’t undergo the advancement of their circadian rhythm, which leads to sleeping in stages and cycles like adults. Nevertheless, not every baby will face difficulties with sleeping due to this process.