What is The 8 Month Sleep Regression?
The 8 month sleep regression generally occurs anywhere between 7 to 10 months of age. It’s a phase where a baby who usually sleeps well suddenly starts waking more often throughout the night and might also start struggling with day naps.
While the word ‘regression’ has a negative connotation, it’s generally not really a regression. This disruption in sleep is often a result of your baby’s rapid developmental advancements.
Keep reading to learn why these developmental milestones lead to a sleep regression, along with how to manage it and much more.
Signs Your Child Is Experiencing an 8-Month Sleep Regression
When your child is experiencing an 8 month sleep regression, you may notice the following signs:
- Difficulty falling asleep. If you have a good routine in place, but your little one is suddenly having trouble sleeping, it’s a sign of a possible sleep regression.
- Struggling to stay asleep or sleep through the night. If your baby used to sleep soundly through the night but suddenly wakes regularly or wakes more than usual, this could also be a sign of sleep regression
- Refusing or skipping naps, or other changes in their usual sleep habits
What Causes The 8 Month Sleep Regression?
The 8 month sleep regression can be caused by several things. These are the most common causes, and your little one may be experiencing one or more of these, causing a sleep regression.
Rapid Developmental Progress
Around 8 months old, babies are often experiencing significant physical and cognitive growth.
This is an age where many start to learn skills like sitting, crawling and for some, pulling to stand. These newfound skills are extremely exciting for them, and naturally they want to use them as much as possible.
Even if it’s supposed to be bedtime.
As a result, you may find your child starts to take longer to fall asleep because they’re busy playing in their crib. Or you may notice they start suddenly waking earlier in the mornings and sitting up, moving around their crib, or pulling themselves into standing on the side.
These developmental shifts also lead to greater environmental awareness. This growing awareness leads to added stimulation, particularly in a bright and/or loud sleep environment.
Separation anxiety is a normal part of development. Children generally start to experience separation anxiety somewhere between 6-12 months of age.
It tends to peak at around 14-18 months old, and remains noticeable until around 3 years of age, before steadily decreasing from that point on.
Separation anxiety can be a reason for your child experiencing an 8 month sleep regression because their increased attachment to you and other caregivers is increased.
This means they might have trouble falling asleep without you nearby. Or if they wake during the night, rather than going back to sleep, they may now want you to comfort them and be close to them to help them get back to sleep.
Ready to Drop a Nap
A very common cause of sleep regressions is a shift in their sleep requirements. Changing sleep needs is another completely normal part of development.
If your child does need to drop a nap, but you haven’t changed their sleep schedule, this can lead to a sleep regression.
When this happens, they will start to reach their daily total sleep requirement sooner due to needing less sleep overall. As a result, you may notice they have trouble falling asleep or they suddenly start waking early from their night sleep.
Adjusting your baby’s sleep schedule to ensure it’s age-appropriate is key to avoiding this problem.
If you’d like to get a sense of when to expect your child to drop a nap, including how many naps you can expect per day at different ages, how long the wake windows generally are, how long each nap will usually be, and how much total sleep they need, click here to download our free New Parent’s Guide to Naps.
At 8 months of age, in particular, we often see children dropping from 3 naps to 2.
Teething usually starts from around 6 months of age. When your little one does start teething, you can expect each tooth to cause them pain for just over a week.
This teething pain often leads to a sleep disruption.
If you feel you’re experiencing an 8 month sleep regression, check for signs of teething coming through. Sudden nighttime awakenings at this age are often caused by teething pain.
How Long Does The 8 Month Sleep Regression Last?
Typically, the 8-month sleep regression lasts a few weeks. However, the duration often depends on the cause of the sleep regression.
It’s also important to remember that every baby is unique. While some babies might experience disrupted sleep patterns for just a week, others might take a bit longer to return to their normal sleep routine.
Does The 8 Month Sleep Regression Impact Sleep Training?
If you have already gone through the process of sleep training your baby before the regression, it’s likely your baby will return to their regular healthy sleep habits after the regression resolves (usually a few weeks). In most cases, you don’t need to do anything special for this to happen.
However, you should be careful not to respond to a regression in a way that will cause long term sleep difficulties or create new sleep associations that are hard to break out of. Details on how to prevent this can be found a little later in this article.
If you want to sleep train but haven’t started yet, it’s recommended you wait until your child isn’t experiencing a sleep regression to start.
By starting to sleep train when your child isn’t already experiencing temporary sleep problems, you increase your chance of success and reduce stress for everyone involved.
Tips To Manage The 8 Month Sleep Regression
- Consider Using a Comforter: If you feel the cause of your child’s 8-month sleep regression is separation anxiety, a sleep aid or comforter can provide them with some extra comfort and familiarity in your absence. In saying that, always follow safe sleep guidelines if you are considering this option. Red Nose Australia recommend only introducing a soft toy to your baby’s sleep environment once they are at least seven months of age. They also suggest removing it from the crib after your child is asleep.
- Adjust Your Baby’s Sleep Schedule: Most babies drop from 3 naps to 2 per day when they’re 6-9 months old. This makes the need for a nap transition a common cause of the 8 month sleep regression. If your baby is still taking 3 naps per day, consider the possibility that they may be ready drop to 2. I also recommend considering how much sleep they are getting in total over a 24-hour period to make sure they’re getting enough (and you’re not expecting too much) sleep overall. To get a better understand of what to expect in terms of naps and total sleep at each age, make sure you download your free copy of the New Parent’s Guide to Naps here.
- Maintain a Consistent Routine: Although it might be a challenge when you’re in the middle of a sleep regression, keeping a consistent bedtime routine is really important. Do your best to maintain consistency and structure in the way you prepare your child for sleep, even if you have to make some temporary changes. Bedtime routines vary between families. An example might be to start with a bath, followed by brushing teeth, reading a story in bed, and singing a song before you leave the room for them to go to sleep. There isn’t a right answer here. Just try to do the same thing at the same time every night.
- Encourage Daytime Activity: Ensure your baby gets plenty of physical activity during the day. This is particularly important if your little one is experiencing an 8 month sleep regression due to progress in their development. If they’ve recently developed new skills, give them plenty of opportunity to practice those new skills during the day. Crawling, exploring, and playing can help them burn off energy and be more ready for sleep at night.
- Create an Optimal Sleep Environment: Creating an environment that is conducive to great sleep is essential at any age, regardless of whether or not your child is experiencing a sleep regression. To do that, you should aim for three things:
- A dark room. Try to make the room as dark as possible. I like to use blackout blinds like these ones, which I can also pack up easily and take with us when we travel. This is really important as your baby’s environmental awareness improves. If the room is light, they may wake between sleep cycles, start looking around and become stimulated by all that they can see around them, causing them to wake fully and take shorter naps. If the room is dark, they are less likely to become stimulated by their surroundings and, therefore, more likely to link sleep cycles.
- Quiet. Street noise, household noise (particularly siblings), and other loud, sudden sounds can easily wake your baby. One of the best ways to help them get a good sleep is to put them to bed in a quiet room wherever possible. I also highly recommend using a white noise machine to dampen sounds which may disrupt sleep and cause early waking from naps and nighttime sleep.
- Cool. Maintaining a comfortable, consistent temperature is another way to help improve daytime naps and night sleep. This helps your baby fall asleep and stay asleep for longer.
- Provide Relief For Teething Pain: If the cause of your baby’s sleep challenges is teething, provide suitable, safe relief where possible. I don’t recommend the use of teething gels. Lidocaine-based teething gels are not recommended by the Australian and New Zealand Society of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics due to toxicity concerns.Other teething remedies you may want to consider include:
- Using a soft, cool washcloth to massage your baby’s gums
- Providing a soft teething ring to chew on
- Massaging their gum with your finger
- Be Patient and Responsive: Offer comfort if they wake up at night but try to avoid creating new habits, like rocking or feeding to sleep, that you’re unwilling to maintain into the future.
- Take Care of Yourself: Managing sleep regression can be exhausting. Remember to take breaks and ask for help when needed.
How to Ensure You Don’t Prolong The 8 Month Sleep Regression
Avoid Creating a New Sleep Association
Sleep regressions may require you to modify your routine or give your little one a little extra help to fall asleep or stay asleep.
But one thing you should try to avoid is accidentally creating new sleep associations that last much longer than the regression itself.
Sleep associations are specific conditions your child needs to fall asleep. These are learned, and are likely also going to be required in order to fall back asleep if they wake during the night.
In the context of sleep regressions, an example may look like this:
Before the regression, your baby may fall asleep after a story and a song. You place them in the crib, and they fall asleep in a few minutes. They also fall back to sleep quickly by themselves if they wake up during the night.
But during a sleep regression, you might decide to start rocking them to sleep in your arms to get them to sleep, then place them in their crib once they’re sleeping soundly.
This can create a new sleep association, which means they then need you to rock them to sleep in your arms every time they need to sleep. This includes if they wake up during the night. This sleep association remains even after the cause of the sleep regression is resolved.
Sticking to your routine as closely as possible and avoiding adding things like rocking to sleep, feeding to sleep, or lying next to them, if you don’t do these things already, is recommended to avoid creating new sleep associations that prolong sleep regressions.
Watch for Over-Tiredness
Most babies have a harder time falling and staying asleep when they’re overtired. Sleep regressions often increase the risk of your baby becoming overtired because of the difficulty falling asleep or more frequent waking.
This makes is even more important to keep a close eye on your baby for sleep cues and to try to put your baby to bed before they become overtired. It can be a challenge, but try to notice these signs and put them to sleep where you can.
In conclusion, while the 8-month sleep regression can be a challenging time, it’s a temporary phase that reflects your child’s growth and development. By understanding what it is, the cause, and by employing practical strategies, you can help your baby (and yourself!) get through this period with more ease.
When to Seek Medical Help or Advice
If, for any reason, you are concerned about your baby’s health, at any time, you should consult with your child’s pediatrician.
The 8 month sleep regression, like most sleep regressions, generally lasts only a few weeks.
If your baby appears to be in pain at any point, or your baby’s sleep struggles last longer than 2-3 weeks, or you notice a change in your baby’s eating habits, or their urination or bowel movements, you should speak with your baby’s doctor to make sure there aren’t any underlying problems.
While sleep regressions are common, it is possible that something else may be causing sleep issues that requires medical attention.