Regression = a situation in which things get worse rather than better.


There seems to be some contention circulating in the parenting world about the validity of a sleep regression and what it really means, but this is really just a matter of semantics. It’s quite simple really. If we look at the Cambridge dictionary definition of the word, a regression is ‘a situation in which things get worse rather than better’, so if we put this into the context of sleep, we are simply referring to the period of time that a child’s sleep might go a bit ‘haywire’.

The main reasons for a regression of sleep are usually linked to things like developmental milestones and the acquisition of new skills or sometimes by things like sickness or travel. Often it’s a matter of just ‘riding it out’ but there are also practical things you can put in place to make life easier if a regression hits your family. The keys to preventing a sleep regression turning into a more long-term issue are to be patient and stay consistent. This means you should try and avoid introducing any new sleep props and continue to put your child down for naps and bedtime at night around the same times, even if they refuse the nap or kick up a fight at bedtime. What happens during a sleep regression is that a child’s brain naturally works overtime as it processes and stores new information about newly learned skills. This information overload is what can cause your child to wake up and be restless mentally and physically, with no respect for time of day or night; your child just needs and wants to practice the newly learned skill. It’s understandably hard for parents when at 1am, 3am and 5am their child wakes and is outlandishly vocal, crying from frustration or is simply moving around the cot like a monkey.

Consider these things


  1. A sleep regression is usually a reflection of a normal part of a child’s development so it can help to think of it more along the lines of it being a positive progression in development rather than a regression which has negative implications.
  2. As a parent, understand that you’ve done nothing wrong if in the past your child usually slept well and all of a sudden in a matter of days, your child starts to struggle with sleep. Sleep regressions are a response to a normal part of your child’s development so it has nothing to do with what you have or have not done. Having said that, see point three below.
  3. There are things you can do to minimise the intensity or duration of a sleep regression once it hits. It also helps to be aware of the typical ages and stages normally associated with sleep regressions so you can be prepared in advance.
  4. Some easy going children ‘cruise’ through baby/childhood with minimal disruption to sleep, but the majority of children will experience a sleep regression at some point, especially between the ages of four months and two years.
  5. Most sleep regressions only last a week or two so stay consistent and be your child’s ‘rock’.
  6. Sleep regressions can vary greatly amongst children so what your friend or sister’s child is doing will probably not apply to your child, so don’t be quick to compare your child with others. Want to know more?