Babies may show sleep regression at the age of 18 months due to their growth and brain development. This means the sleep pattern changes including less sleep or changed sleep pattern. The temporary condition often resolves within a few weeks. However, sleep regression in an 18-month-old baby can be challenging for the parents since the baby can escape from the crib, walk around, make sounds, or play.
You can try several ideas and steps to manage this phase in your baby’s life.
Read this post to know more about the causes, duration, and symptoms of 18-month sleep regression, sleep tips, and the sleep requirement for babies.
What Causes Sleep Regression In An 18-month-old?
Changes in sleep patterns are part of growth and development. The following situations may lead to sleep regression in 18-month-old babies.
1. Growth and development
Changes in brain development may cause temporary sleep regression or changes in the usual sleep patterns of an 18-month-old. The child may have less periods of sleep or sleep pattern may change.
You may notice that phases marked by the achievement of physical and cognitive milestones are often associated with sleep regressions. You may also notice new teeth or an increase in height during the sleep regression period. The mother may specially complain of new teeth eruptions. The varying amounts of growth hormones in the baby’s body could be the reason.
2. Separation anxiety
Some babies may develop sleep regression due to separation anxiety Although it is a part of their social and emotional growth, separation anxiety may cause sleep changes in a baby if caregivers or parents leave them to sleep alone.
3. Increased independence
Some babies may have a strong desire for independence at this age and tend to play or do something else rather than sleep. They may also try to protest by crying or through other ways when you ask them to sleep on a regular time.
How Long Will The Sleep Regression Last?
Duration of sleep regression may vary in each child. It usually lasts two to six weeks, and your baby will gradually revert to regular sleeping patterns (1). The parent generally complains to the doctor that the child does not sleep or keeps awake for hours.
A few babies may experience sleep regression for shorter periods, while some may not experience it at all.
What Does An 18-month-old’s Sleep Regression Look Like?
The baby may show the following behavior during the 18-month sleep regression.
- Waking up at night
- Altered sleep pattern like awake at night and sleeping in day
- Waking up too early
- Bedtime tantrums
- Increased shorter naps
- Crying and fussiness
- Appetite changes. Not eating well
- Clinginess and asking more cuddles
Some babies may play, call you, or talk during their bedtime. This is a normal part of development, and babies outgrow it eventually.
How Many Hours Of Sleep Is Needed For An 18-month-old Baby?
Eleven to fourteen hours of daily sleep is required for an 18-month-old baby (2). It can be split into a longer duration (10 to 12 hours) of night sleep with a few hours (two to four hours) of naps during the day.
Although sleep needs may vary in babies, all of them require enough sleep to be healthy, even when they have sleep regression. Insufficient sleep may exacerbate tantrums and cranky behavior in babies (3).
Sleep Tips For 18-month-old Babies
The following sleep tips may help your baby fall asleep during the 18-month sleep regression phase (4).
- Let your baby follow certain bedtime routines, such as reading bedtime stories or having a bath. It can relax them and prepare them for bedtime.
- Place the baby in the crib when they feel drowsy rather than wait for them to fall asleep in your arms. It can help them fall asleep sooner and sleep better. It may also let you observe and determine when your baby tends to fall asleep.
- Avoid screen time a few hours before bedtime or naptime. Do not allow more than an hour of screen time in a day (5).
- You can provide a safe and comfortable bedtime toy to the baby. It may help the baby fall asleep again if they wake up at night.
- Adjust the sleep schedule of the baby during sleep regressions. For instance, place the baby to bed earlier at night or try extra naps during the day.
- Feed the baby adequately before bedtime so that they do not wake up due to hunger.
- Have a soothing night light in your baby’s room so that they can fall asleep easily.
- You can place the baby’s crib close to your bed in your bedroom so that you are always within their line of sight. Room-sharing can make it easier for you to comfort them back to sleep if they wake up at night.
You can reinforce good sleep habits to an 18-month-old if they have sleep regression and tantrums. Set rules and limits, and encourage the baby to observe a fixed sleep schedule for both naps and nighttime sleep.
Sleep regression can come across as a difficult phase for parents; the parents are generally worried that there is something wrong with the baby and go to the doctor for reassurance. However, the right steps may help you manage it. Try different methods and see what works for your baby. Do not worry too much, and get some sleep when the baby sleeps. As they grow older, their sleep patterns tend to become predictable, and they also become more compliant, thus becoming more likely to observe a sleep schedule set by parents.
2. Infant Sleep; Stanford’s Children Health
3. How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need?; Sleep Foundation
4. The Toddler (18-ish) Month Regression: What is it and what can be done about it?;; Baby Sleep Science; Sleep Resource Center
5. Where We Stand: Screen Time; American Academy of Pediatrics