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Sleep regressions and how to deal with them

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I’m not saying children hit a certain age and this is what causes their sleep to go awry. What I am suggesting, though, is that there are three main reasons for your little one’s sleep to regress and, at least one of those, is age and ability dependent.

Developmental Milestones

The first reason your little one’s sleep gets disturbed is likely to be that s/he has hit a developmental milestone because these can definitely cause regression. This regression can disrupt their sleep for around a week or two.

The first milestone comes around 4 months (which is probably what everyone refers to as the ‘4 month regression’) and it’s around this time your little one masters rolling. There’s a developmental leap around this time too (plus a growth spurt) so all of this going on can definitely cause sleep disruption.

If you find your little one is stuck on her tummy, go in calmly and turn her back over. It would be unfair to expect your baby to sleep on her front when, until now, you have encouraged her to sleep on her back. Make sure she is safe and make sure you are aware of the current NHS safety guidelines! Be very quiet, don’t engage in chatter or play, then leave. The last thing you want is to cause your baby to wake and do this to get you in the room. If you do extra things like cuddle your little one, walk around room etc you may find you could undo all your good work especially if you do this for three nights or more.

When your baby’s body and brain is mastering a skill, it can almost become an obsession with them. Your little one will want to practice their new skill over and over again so you will need to “flip” them as many times as necessary until they realise how to do themselves. Its a good idea to practice the skill in the day to help them at night time.

Walking, standing and crawling can also cause sleep disruptions but so can a development surge like learning to talk! This can show up as lots of bedtime chatter. Whilst this can be frustrating, don’t tell your little one off, or do anything out of the ordinary, as it will subside if it is due to language. Chatter can happen in middle of night but again that’s ok, unless it goes on for longer than a week or two. If it does, you may need to think about day time sleep and then think about dropping a nap, a later bedtime etc.


The second, possible, reason for disturbed sleep is illness. Your little one will need more sleep when s/he is poorly but it will probably be more fragmented and there will be more night wake ups etc.

The most important thing, of course, is to take any doctor’s advice and treat your little one as your doctor has told you. Of course you will need to increase your involvement; wiping noses, giving extra cuddles etc but you just need to be careful not to get into bad habits such as rocking your little one to sleep, allowing him to sleep in your bed etc. If you need to monitor your little one overnight, it’s better to go into their room to sleep. The good news is that, if they have good sleep skills, they will probably want to continue to fall asleep how they usually do so. Although they may accept cuddle, they will probably want to go back into their cot/bed to sleep.

If you do get into “bad habits” just go back to basics and your little one should remember how to settle and sleep well.


Travel in itself probably won’t cause an issue but issues may stem from jet lag or too many holiday plans scheduled during the holiday. You might then find your little one gets overtired and cries at bedtime so you get back into bad habits so s/he doesn’t wake hotel neighbours.

To avoid too much sleep disruption during your holidays, try and stick to the same rules and routines you follow at home. Don’t bed share and try to get separate bedrooms. If that’s not possible, especially if your little one is 9 months or over, try to create partition between you and them so they are not too excited upon seeing you at bedtime.

As always, if you’re experiencing any problems with your little ones sleep, please do get in touch for a free 15 minute chat – We would love to help!

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