How To Survive The Four-Month Sleep Regression
It’s likely that you heard about the four-month sleep regression, way before your little one got to four months, as it’s something that buzzes around all the coffee meet ups and baby groups! The four-month sleep regression actually happens anywhere between 12-16 weeks and it’s when your little one develops sleep cycles. Prior to the four month sleep regression, little ones generally sleep in 50% light (REM or dream) sleep and 50% deep sleep and they drift in between those stages of sleep fairly easily. When a little one goes through the four-month sleep regression, they are more likely to wake up at the end of every sleep cycle if they have been assisted to sleep in some way at the beginning of that sleep cycle. So, if they have been rocked or fed to sleep for example, they will wake as they are no longer being rocked or fed and feel disorientated and will need you to come back and do whatever you were doing before – rocking or feeding – to help them back to sleep and into their next sleep cycle. This can lead to frequent waking throughout the night and short naps. If this works for you as a family then you don’t need to do anything but, often, this can become unsustainable.
So, what can we do to help your little one through the four-month sleep regression? First, we always suggest looking at your little one’s sleeping environment. You want to make sure it’s nice and dark. Darkness is key as little one’s can be stimulated by light, especially when they are coming to the end of their sleep cycle. A white noise machine can also be really useful for making your little one’s sleeping environment consistent. With your little one spending more time in lighter sleep, noises will startle and wake them easily. So, if you have noisy neighbours, a barking dog or even creaky stairs, you may find it helpful to use white noise. It needs to be a pure white noise as opposed to raindrops or waterfalls, and on all night with no other lights or noises.
You can also start to introduce more of an eat, play, sleep routine with your little one, if they have not already, so they can practice getting themselves to sleep without help. When they wake you give them a feed, they have some play time and then they go down for their next nap awake. Similarly at night, when they wake, they have a feed, you keep them awake during that feed, burp them and pop them down in their cot awake to get back to sleep by themselves. This means that they are fully aware of where they are when they initially go into the cot, which will stop them feeling disorientated when they wake up from a sleep cycle and should start to help your little one to link their sleep cycles throughout the night so they – and you! – get some more consolidated sleep. You could even start to this when they are over 6 weeks if you feel confident enough to do it.
Keep an eye on this all-important awake windows too. If a little one is under or over tired, it will be more tricky for them to settle themselves. As a rough guide, at four months awake windows are between 1.5-2 hours, at five months, 1.75-2.5 hours and at six months 2.5-3 hours.
Remember, once you’re through this difficult stage, your baby will have officially moved into the sleep cycle they’ll be following for the rest of their life, so by giving them the opportunity to master falling asleep by themselves, you’ll setting them up for great sleep habits in the future.
If you need some extra help with your little one’s sleep, you can get in touch with Becky Badgers from Little Dreams Consulting, who is on hand to help your whole family get more sleep.
Facebook @Little Dreams Consulting