Research-backed

6-Month-Old's Sleep Regression: Reasons And How To Deal With It

Image: iStock

IN THIS ARTICLE

The sleep schedule of babies may start to vary once they attain the age of six months. They may experience disruptions in sleep cycles, which are established during the first months of life. These sleep disturbances could involve waking up at night, resistance to napping, daytime fussiness, or taking shorter naps than usual. These changes indicate sleep regression, which is not a problem, rather a developmental milestone of a growing baby.

Read this post to know more about six-month sleep regression, including why it happens and how to manage it.

How Long Does Six-Month Sleep Regression Last?

The six-month sleep regression may last from two to six weeks, similar to sleep regressions at other stages of a baby’s life (1). However, each baby is different, and the duration of sleep regression could vary, and it may even last for a few days in some babies. The signs and symptoms of sleep regression do not usually last for long if you know to manage your baby’s sleep (2).

What Causes Sleep Regression In A Six-Month Old?

There is no precise cause for sleep regression. Baby’s natural developmental milestones and growth spurts could affect their sleep patterns (3) (4). The following developmental milestones may affect a six-month-old’s sleep, leading to sleep regression.

  • Rolling over: Most babies roll over in both directions (front to back, back to front) by six months (5). In some cases, your baby may roll over while in the crib, thus disturbing their sleep.
  • Babbling: Your baby will enjoy making one-syllable sounds, such as “oh” and “ah,” repeatedly. The new ability to babble and coo may cause the baby to experiment with these sounds during their sleep time (6).
  • Sitting: Most babies can sit without support by the age of six months. The little one may experiment with sitting in their crib, causing disturbed sleep cycle.
  • Separation anxiety: Social developments, such as separation anxiety, might also disrupt a baby’s sleep. These milestones are a normal part of a baby’s development and may sometimes affect their sleep at night (7).
  • Teething: Baby teeth may begin to emerge from the age of six months. The pain and discomfort caused by teething could affect a baby’s sleep habits (8).

What Are The Signs Of Six-Month Sleep Regression?

Your baby may show the following signs of a sleep regression (2).

  • Awakening frequently at night and taking longer to go back to sleep
  • Facing difficulty to sleep immediately
  • Napping more in the day and less at night
  • Crying or agitation while waking up in the middle of the night

Keep in mind that six-month-old babies need at least 14 hours of sleep in 24 hours, including the daytime naps (9).

How To Deal With Six-Month Sleep Regression?

It is normal to worry when your baby stops sleeping on their regular schedule. Remember, it is temporary, and there are some ways to manage it. You may try the following ways to cope with your six-month-old’s sleep regression (2) (10).

  • Stick to a sleep schedule: Follow a regular bedtime routine, including naps. If you cannot manage a routine, making a plan with a standard time for sleep and naps could create stability in your baby’s sleep pattern.
  • Build positive sleep associations: Establish the same series of steps every night to prepare your baby for sleep. Some comforting rituals include a bedtime story, cuddling, rocking, swaddling, and listening to music. These activities would set the baby at ease and help them wind down for sleep.
  • Look for sleep cues: Your baby may show signs of drowsiness such as fussiness, eye rubbing, yawning, quietness, crying, or clenched fists. Put your baby into the crib and settle them to sleep when you notice these sleep cues.
  • Minimize distractions: Keep the sleeping area calm and dark, with no disturbances. If you cannot control the external noise, use a white noise machine to soothe your baby to sleep. Use curtains to block light coming through the windows.
  • Keep baby within reach: Place your baby’s crib close to your bed so that you are always within reach to attend to them when they wake up at night. Remember not to share the bed with the baby since it can increase the risk of injuries for the little one (11).
  • Monitor separation anxiety: If your baby wakes up crying, gently stroke her head, tummy, or arm, and offer cuddles so they can get back to sleep.

When To Call A Doctor?

Consult a doctor if sleep regression continues for more than six weeks. You should also consult a doctor if the following issues accompany the baby’s sleep regression.

  • Fever
  • Low appetite or poor feeding
  • Reduced urination or bowel movements
  • Lack of weight gain or stunted growth
  • Abnormal breathing

Your baby may or may not experience the six-month sleep regression. If your baby shows consistent changes in night time sleep at different ages, it is likely a sleep regression. Being patient and trying out different ways to manage your baby’s sleep patterns could help you sail through this phase comfortably.

References:

1. Christina Stolfo, Sleep Training; Northwell Health
2. 6-Month Sleep Regression; Sleep Foundation
3. Developmental milestones record – 6 months; U.S. National Library of Medicine
4. Your baby’s sleep at 3-6 months; NHS UK
5. Important Milestones: Your Baby By Six Months; CDC
6. Speech and language development from birth to 12 months; NHS UK
7. Understanding Separation Anxiety in Infants and Young Children; DC Government
8. Teething; University of California San Francisco
9. Infant Sleep; Stanford Children’s Health
10. How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need?; Sleep Foundation
11. How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe;American Academy of Pediatrics