The Four Month Sleep Regression

Infant Sleep

You’ve finally found your rhythm, you’re both finally getting some sleep, your baby has been going to bed like a dream come true…and then it all comes to a grinding halt. When you’re a new parent, exhausted from a baby who’s not sleeping well, the last thing that you want to hear about is sleep regression.

But at right around four months, it’s a reality nearly every parent is going to face. So here’s what you need to know to survive conquer the four month sleep regression.

The Stages Of Sleep

You probably know there are multiple stages of sleep that you (and your baby, presumably) will move through over the course of the night.

The first stage is barely there, when the head is dropping and the mind is drifting. The person may not even realize they’re sleeping when woken up, because they are aware of what’s going on around them to a point.

Next comes the first stage of real sleep. If you get woken up, you will feel woken up but not groggy. This is where power nappers find their refreshing and it’s a relatively short stage.

Slow wave sleep comes next, which is a deep sleep. This is when the body begins healing and regenerating and it’s essential for everyone to get good rest so they enter this stage.

Lastly is REM sleep. This is when the brain kicks in and all kinds of amazing processes happen that you literally sleep through, but create your memories and make connections and this stage is very important as children learn and develop.

Why Is My Baby’s Sleep Regressing At 4 Months Old?

Well, newborns only have two stages of sleep: slow wave and REM…until they hit four months old.

All of the sudden they are spreading their sleep time over four stages of sleep, not just two, and those new stages? Well, they are much easier to wake up from.

While you will realize it’s still the middle of the night when you wake up and drift back off to sleep, your sweet little baby doesn’t know that yet. She hasn’t learned to go back to sleep (at least not right away and without your help) and so it seems like your sweet sleeping angel is now the thing of dreams.

This really isn’t a regression, though. She’s not reverting to old habits or losing ground she’s gained. She’s simply progressing to the next stage of mental and physical development. In fact, this isn’t a regression at all; your little one is making progress!

Regressing V. Progressing

There are times, however, that sleep disturbances are regressions and those should be recognized as they’ll be handled a little bit differently.

For instance, teething. That’s a temporary (albeit repeated) condition that will disrupt your baby enough for you to notice regressive patterns at bedtime.

Travel, illness, and other major changes in circumstance are expected to disrupt sleep time. But at four months? It’s just your little one growing up and making progress.

How Do I Help My Baby Sleep Better?

You’re not alone in this frustration and there is hope. I promise, your baby will sleep well once again — and truly, even better than you can imagine.

Here are some tips to help your four month old reclaim their sleep…

1. No Lights In The Room

That’s right, keep things dark. A dark environment is a signal our brains are hardwired to recognize as a sign that it’s time to sleep.

Your 4 month old baby isn’t scared of the dark; she’s simply waking up in a new place, from a new way (remember, her body didn’t do all this just a couple of weeks ago!), and her fight and flight response kicked in. You’ll comfort her, she’ll learn it’s okay, and she’ll go back to sleep…but not if there’s light signaling that it’s time to wake up.

2. White Noise In The Room

While this could be considered a sleep prop by some (and you know we here are Sleep Wise aren’t supporters of props!), it’s really more of a tool.

For our purposes, a prop is more of an external item that needs interaction. This is a noise in the background be it from a white noise machine, a fan, or other device that will help reduce baby’s awareness of sounds like the doorbell ringing, the dog barking, or a telemarketer calling.

This will help your little one move through those two light stages of sleep where she can be easily awoken and make her way to restorative and REM phases.

3. Have A Good Routine

Routines are good for children of all ages, not just your four month old. At 4 months a routine can help your little one prepare for bed without relying on the breast or bottle (props!). Your regular 20-30 minute predictable rhythm of behavior will start to signal to your child that it’s bedtime and help her get ready to sleep.

If baby’s getting fussy, you know it’s already been too long between sleep times and you’ll need to be more mindful of the clock. At this age, your little one will only spend about 2 hours of time awake between naps and bedtime will be around 7 or 8 at night for her long rest.

The 4 Month Sleep Progression

The good news is that once you get past the four month milestone, you’re past it. That’s it. No circling back to it.

And you’re laying the groundwork for healthy sleep habit in the future, too. You’re helping your little one learn to fall asleep without props, to go back to sleep when they awake in an early stage, and to sleep through all four sleep cycles (many times a night!).

Your baby may make this transition quickly and seamlessly…or you may end up exhausted and near tears, wondering if either of you will survive. The good news is that you will — and you don’t have to do it alone. Just send me an e-mail or book a call now, and we’ll help you and your little one learn to sleep well.

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