For some parents, this can feel like an extension of the four month sleep regression. Perhaps things never really improved and you're still in the depths of despair over your little one's sleep issues. For other parents they may have overcome the four month sleep regression only to feel like they are starting from scratch with this one all over again. I know it can be frustrating, but we are going to explain how to handle it so you can achieve a good night's sleep!
A sleep regression is a period of time when a baby or toddler, who had previously been sleeping well, begins to have difficulties with their sleep such as frequent night wakings, short or skipped naps and early wake ups.
Why does it include 8, 9 and 10 months?
This is because this regression is not nearly as predictable as the 4 month regression. There's a much wider range of time it can happen.
How long does it last?
Sleep regressions typically last 2-6 weeks. If it lasts longer than that then it is time to evaluate if your little one has developed some new sleep crutches during this time.
When does it occur?
It can really happen anywhere between 8 and 10 months.
Why does it happen?
This regression is most commonly linked to developmental milestones. Your baby may have developed or be working on some new physical skills such as crawling, scooting, sitting, pulling up and so on. At this age their verbal skills are also rapidly expanding! They may be working on saying a word or two but they are also constantly absorbing all the words they hear from their loved ones. Finally, teething can play a role in this regression as well. Sometimes all of the new skills coupled with teething can be a lot for one little baby to try to manage and it's no wonder their sleep ends up suffering as a result!
Another reason for some difficulties with sleep at this time is because of nap transitions. Babies typically drop from 3 to 2 naps anywhere between 6 and 9 months. Sometimes this schedule change can be hard on them and they just need time and consistency to get everything sorted out.
At 8-10 months your baby needs about 11-12 hours of night time sleep and 2-3 hours of daytime sleep.
What to do about it:
- Be consistent. This allows you to show them by example and it helps them to understand what to expect. This is important because they lack the verbal skills to communicate their feelings about these big changes. Your actions will act as the form of communication in this case!
- Perfect the room environment. If you haven't already, this is the time to ensure you have created an optimal sleep space. It should be completely pitch black and between 68 and 72 degrees. You should utilize a white noise machine for both nights and naps.
- Stick with a consistent daily wake time. A biologically normal wake time for infants and toddlers is between 6 and 7am. You'll want to choose a time that is the closest to your baby's typical wake time and wake them if they are still sleeping at that time.
- Lay your baby down at the correct time. You want to aim for 10-15 minutes before their scheduled sleep time so they have a chance to fall asleep before becoming overtired.
- If you haven't already, develop a daily nap schedule as well. After 6 months of age, scheduled nap times can be very effective!
- Follow proper wake windows for your baby's age. This ensures they aren't staying awake too long in between naps and bedtime. When they are up too long, their body begins to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These make it very difficult for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep. For the 8-10 month range your baby should typically be on two naps (or working towards a 2 nap schedule) and their wake windows can vary from about 2.5 - 3.5 hours.
- Keep a sleep log. If you aren't sure what is working and what isn't with your baby's schedule, keeping a sleep log can be helpful. It will allow you to uncover trends in their behavior and see where adjustments need to be made. If you need to make some changes, start with just 15 minutes and then stick to it for a few days before making any further changes.
- Stick to your normal routine as much as possible. If you have a day with short or missed naps, you can try to fit in an extra cat nap or you can certainly bring bedtime up.
- Use a pre-nap routine and a pre-bedtime routine. Repeat these routines in the same order each time. This allows your baby to start the process of winding down which then signals their body that it's time for sleep.
- Lay your baby down awake. If you are using some other method to get your baby to go to sleep you will probably encounter short naps and/or frequent night wakings. When they awake they will expect that same method of being put back to sleep each time. If you can teach your baby the skill of falling asleep independently then it won't be an issue going forward!
- Pause before going to your baby if they are waking frequently at night. If you know all of their needs have been met then it's okay to give them an opportunity to put themselves back to sleep.
- Give your baby a lot of time during the day to work on their new skills. They need ample space and opportunity to practice plus the physical activity is great for making sure they will be tired enough for sleep!
- Get outside – especially in the first half of the day. Sunlight is important for regulating our circadian rhythm. Which is also known as our internal clock and it helps determine our sleep and wake cycles. When we spend some time in the sun, our bodies produce more serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates everything from mood to sleep!
- Don't panic. When a sleep regression is occurring it can be stressful and exhausting. It may feel like it will never end. Take a deep breath, and take a break when needed!
- Be patient. Each of these regressions only happen once and they definitely won't last forever! Keep that in mind when you are having a tough day.
In closing, I just want you to remember to give yourself (and your baby) a lot of grace during this time. Regressions are not easy and especially when everyone is feeling sleep deprived. Remember to stick to your routine and schedule as much as possible but don't stress too much. Once the regression is over, you can get back on track!