Babies experience various phases of development during infancy, including phases of sleep regression. Eight-month sleep regression is when an eight-month-old, who has been sleeping well through the night, suddenly starts waking up at night.
The sudden nocturnal awakening can affect their sleep-wake cycle resulting in fussiness, more daytime sleep, and trouble falling asleep at night. While this change can be worrisome for parents, thankfully, it’s temporary. Parents can pass the phase with minimal trouble by knowing more about it.
Read this post to know all about eight-month sleep regression, its possible causes, and management.
What Are The Causes Of Eight-Month Sleep Regression?
According to experts, sleep regressions can happen due to (1):
- Sleep cycle shift: On average, babies between three and six months of age might sleep thrice (for about two hours each time) during the daytime. On the other hand, babies between six and 12 months of age have about one to two daytime naps each day, usually about one to two hours long each (2). Experts believe that this shift in a baby’s sleep cycle might cause sleep regression.
- Growth and development: At around eight and nine months of age, babies learn several new skills at a time. Babbling, copying sounds, clapping hands, crawling, and pulling up to stand are a few things they are mastering (3).These simultaneous developmental changes may lead to temporary sleep disturbance in babies (4).
- Separation anxiety: Experts note that rapid emotional development and increased awareness of surroundings may cause sleep troubles in eight-month-olds. Separation anxiety, an emotional development milestone, could be a reason why a baby wakes up in the middle of the night and searches for their parent or caregiver (5). A baby develops separation anxiety when they learn about “object permanence.” Most babies develop separation anxiety by nine months of age. However, some may develop it as early as four to five months (6).
In some cases, a baby may be waking up at night due to an illness or teething. If you are unsure why your baby is suddenly waking up at night, consult a pediatrician.
What Are The Signs Of Eight-Month Sleep Regression?
Some potential signs of eight-month-old sleep regression are (1):
- Increased awakening during the middle of the night
- Difficulty getting back to sleep even when the parent or caregiver is present
- Less nighttime sleep and longer daytime naps
Every infant is different and may show different sleep-related problems and signs of sleep regression. If your baby awakens very frequently each night, consult a pediatrician to determine the likely cause.
How Long Does Sleep Regression Last?
Each baby is different, and so is the duration of their sleep regression. Usually, an eight-month sleep regression lasts for two to six weeks but could last for a shorter duration if parents successfully sleep train the baby (1) (7). But even so, a baby may have occasional sleep issues.
How To Manage Sleep Regression In Babies?
Patience and persistence can help your baby develop a definite sleep pattern necessary to manage sleep regression. Here are some basics to follow (1).
- Follow safe sleep practices. Place your baby on their back during naps and bedtime. Dress them suitably to prevent overheating. Remove stuffed toys, fluffy blankets, pillows, and comforters from the baby’s crib since they can increase the risk of suffocation. These safe sleep practices can help a baby sleep undisturbed through the night.
- Stick to a sleep schedule as much as possible. It applies to both nap times and bedtime. Although developing and maintaining a sleep-wake schedule during sleep regression can be challenging, it can certainly help an infant adjust to a set sleep pattern once sleep regression ends.
- Expose the baby to natural light during the daytime. Keep them active with interactive, playful activities to reduce their daytime naps. It could help make a baby feel tired by evening and sleep soundly at night. Being active during the daytime and sleepy during the night can help establish a healthy sleep-wake pattern.
- Ensure the baby’s basic needs are met before you put them to sleep. A baby is likely to wake up in the middle of the night if they are hungry or their diaper is full. Do not hesitate to rock, nurse, or comfort your baby to put them to sleep, if needed. Remember, you should train your baby to self-soothe, but you can comfort them to sleep when they aren’t able to sleep themselves.
- Avoid disturbance and distractions in and around your baby’s sleep area. A baby will sleep more comfortably in a noise-free and darkroom than a place with constant commotion. If required, experiment with soothing tools, such as white noise machines, sleep sacks, and blackout curtains to help your baby sleep peacefully.
- Practice separation to manage separation anxiety. Start by being away from your baby for short durations during the day. It will help a baby understand that even when out of sight, you come back. During the night, be available to your baby when they wake up but avoid lingering around as much as possible.
While managing your baby’s sleep regression, pay heed to self-care. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and sleep soundly as much as possible. Don’t shy away to take help from friends and family to let yourself rest adequately. Remember, only when you are well-rested, you can help your baby sleep well.
When To See A Doctor?
Sleep regressions are usually temporary. However, if it worsens or extends for a longer duration, consult a pediatrician. Below are some of the signs and symptoms that need attention.
- Sleep regression lasts for more than six weeks
- Decreased bowel movement or urination
- Poor weight gain and growth
- Abnormal breathing during sleep
Eight-month sleep regression can be frustrating and worrisome for parents. But don’t fret. The phenomenon is temporary and usually resolves on its own within a few weeks. To help your baby pass through the phase with minimum discomfort, adhere to safe sleep practices, and follow a set sleep schedule. Remember also to focus on self-care and not let the phase take a toll on your well-being.
2. Sleep patterns for babies; Pregnancy, Birth and Baby
3. 8-9 months: baby development; Raising Children
4. From Safe Sleep to Healthy Sleep: A Systemic Perspective on Sleep In the First Year; University Of Washington
5. Emotional and Social Development: 8 to 12 Months; Healthy Children; AAP
6. How to Ease Your Child’s Separation Anxiety; Healthy Children; AAP
7. Christina Stolfo, Sleep Training; North well Health