Babies’ sleep patterns change frequently during their first year of life. Although sleep tends to gradually improve over this time, some babies experience sleep disruptions that recur even after they seemed to have established a more regular sleep schedule. These sudden periods of worsened sleep are commonly referred to as sleep regressions.
Newborns may sleep for up to 18 hours in a 24-hour period, but starting at around 6 months, babies may only sleep for 13 or 14 hours a day. Although every baby’s timeline for sleep milestones is different, many babies start sleeping through the night when they are around 6 months old.
Around 8 months, however, some parents find that their baby suddenly begins resisting bedtime or waking up more frequently at night. This 8-month sleep regression can be frustrating for caregivers who are just getting used to their child sleeping more consistently.
In most cases, sleep regressions are temporary. Sleep changes are normal at this age and may be linked to an 8-month-old’s development of new skills.
For parents and caregivers, it can be helpful to learn more about 8-month sleep regressions, including what can cause them and what steps may help promote healthy sleep for their baby.
What Is the 8-Month Sleep Regression?
An 8-month sleep regression is a resurgence of sleep difficulties that affect an 8-month-old who had previously shown signs of establishing a more stable sleep pattern.
Around 8 months of age, many infants are mastering certain skills and preparing to gain a host of new abilities like crawling and pulling themselves up to stand. Many babies have sleep difficulties at the same time as these developmental milestones. When this occurs, it may be referred to as a sleep regression. However, because development timelines can vary, some babies may have greater sleep disruptions at other times, including around the 9-month mark.
That said, an 8- or 9-month sleep regression does not happen for everyone. Although one theory of sleep regressions maintained that they happen for all babies at the same ages, experts now recognize that sleep patterns evolve differently for every child. Occasional sleep setbacks are normal and usually temporary.
Signs of the 8-Month Sleep Regression
In a sleep regression, disruptions occur despite prior progress toward more consistent and undisrupted sleep. Signs of an 8-month sleep regression can include:
- Struggling to fall asleep
- Waking up frequently at night
- Increased crying and fussiness
These intermittent periods of sleep disruption are normal even if an 8-month-old has previously had stretches of sleeping more soundly. Infants go through rapid physical and mental growth, and they may need many months to settle into a consistent sleep pattern.
Naps at 8 Months
Naps play an important role in infant sleep, which enables learning and growth. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that 8-month-olds sleep 12 to 15 hours per day, including naps.
The frequency and duration of naps can vary, and nap schedules change and evolve as babies grow. Infants may take up to four naps per day that range from 30 minutes to 2 hours each.
By around 7 or 8 months, many babies begin consolidating their daytime sleep into two naps of about 90 minutes each. These most often take the form of one nap in the morning and another in the afternoon. At this age, their nap schedule may become more consistent.
Nap patterns may have implications for nighttime sleep. Overly long naps or naps that are too close to bedtime may prevent babies from falling asleep at night. Parents can help babies get better rest by trying to ensure that they have at least four waking hours between sleep periods.
Why Does the 8-Month Sleep Regression Happen?
There are many reasons why some babies experience disrupted sleep around 8 months of age.
- Developing new skills: Around this time, many babies are learning or perfecting skills like crawling and pulling themselves up to stand. For some babies, these milestones are associated with temporary sleep disturbances.
- Separation anxiety: Many 8-month-olds begin to have separation anxiety, which is a feeling of fear when they are away from their parents or caregivers. This normal developmental phase frequently involves sleep problems.
- Establishing sleep structure: Infants need time to establish their internal clock that helps manage wakefulness and sleep, and in the meantime they regularly have ups and downs in their sleep patterns.
- Heightened awareness and overstimulation: Babies of this age have expanding sensory and cognitive abilities. Combined with physical development, these advancements may contribute to occasional overstimulation, which can interfere with sleep at bedtime.
- Teething: Most babies begin teething between the ages of 6 and 8 months. Along with general irritability, pain, and swollen gums, babies who are teething may have trouble falling or staying asleep.
- Illness: Being sick can affect how an 8-month-old feels during the day and their ability to sleep soundly at night.
Although these are some factors that can contribute to an 8-month sleep regression, it may not be possible to determine a single specific reason for an infant’s sleep difficulties.
Do All Babies Experience the 8-Month Sleep Regression?
Not every infant goes through an 8-month sleep regression. Every baby is different, and children’s sleep patterns go through frequent changes during the first two years of life.
There is no timeline of sleep disruptions that applies to all babies. Instead, occasional periods of improving or worsening sleep can be expected as infants develop their internal biological rhythms and grow accustomed to their environment.
For this reason, some babies go through sleep regressions at different points. For instance, sleep problems may arise at 4 months, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, or at other times in between.
How Long Does the 8-Month Sleep Regression Last?
While sleep regressions can be a challenge for parents, they are usually short-lived. Although there’s not a standard length for 8-month sleep regressions, they may last for a few nights to a few weeks.
Even though parents cannot control the length of a sleep regression, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and healthy bedtime habits may help stabilize a baby’s sleep.
Tips for Coping With the 8-Month Sleep Regression
Sleep regressions are hard on caregivers and babies alike. One way to cope is to focus on building healthy sleep habits that can last for years.
Some parents choose to try sleep training for their 8-month-old. Sleep training is an umbrella term for various techniques to encourage self-soothing behaviors in infants. During a sleep regression, you can check with your pediatrician about whether to try sleep training or to change your sleep training method.
Whether or not you choose to sleep train, some tips can help you and your family get through the 8-month sleep regression while encouraging healthy sleep.
- Develop a relaxing routine: A 20- to 45-minute bedtime routine can be a soothing way to help kids fall asleep and stay asleep. Try to incorporate comforting activities like reading stories, bathing, and cuddling into your routine.
- Maintain a regular schedule: Sticking to a set bedtime helps to develop and reinforce a baby’s sleep patterns. Also try to schedule naps so that they do not happen late in the day, which can create difficulty falling asleep at bedtime.
- Put the baby to sleep drowsy: When they go to bed, babies should be sleepy but not already asleep. This teaches infants to fall asleep on their own in bed without a caregiver’s help.
- Practice new skills during the day: Many 8-month-olds are excited to practice new skills like crawling and pulling up to stand. Give your baby time during the day for play and activities.
- Shorten nighttime visits: If your child wakes in the night and you need to go to them, try to keep your interactions limited and short, including if your baby needs to be fed. It’s best to avoid turning on the lights or otherwise stimulating your baby when they wake up at night.
- Create a comforting sleep environment: Make sure your baby goes to sleep in a room that is dark and quiet, and avoid placing too many toys near the crib. In some cases, a white noise machine may help babies sleep.
When to Talk to Your Pediatrician
Including nightly sleep and daytime naps, an 8-month-old should generally get a total of 12 to 15 hours of sleep every day. At this age, it’s normal for sleep patterns to shift and go through temporary ups and downs, including sleep regressions.
During regular health checkups with your baby’s pediatrician, you can review their sleep habits and bring up any questions or concerns about how their sleep is developing. Although sleep problems in an 8-month-old are usually brief and not a health issue, you should contact a pediatrician if your baby struggles to sleep consistently and you notice issues such as:
- Thrashing, snoring, or breathing strangely in their sleep
- Reduced eating during the day
- Lack of physical growth or steady weight gain
- Missed milestones in development
How to Care for Yourself During the 8-Month Sleep Regression
Sleep regressions can be stressful, especially if your baby had recently started sleeping through the night. However, it is important to take care of your own wellness and ensure that you get enough rest to care for your child.
While the 8-month sleep regression might leave you exhausted, remember that it is temporary. You can also try practical steps for self-care during a sleep regression.
- Ask for help: Enlist friends and relatives to help out during the day. They may be more than willing to watch the baby or take care of chores while you catch up on sleep.
- Trade off with your partner: If you have a partner, splitting nighttime duties may help everyone get better rest. For example, one of you can put the baby to bed while the other handles early morning wake-ups. You can also take turns responding when the baby wakes during the night.
- Alter your expectations: Perfectionism as a parent can be extremely stressful, so try to be realistic in your expectations. Be reasonable and kind to yourself, and acknowledge that you may not be able to stay on top of chores or get as much sleep as you would like.
- Refine your sleep habits: While your time to sleep may be reduced, you can take small steps to improve your sleep hygiene. For example, try not to drink caffeine late in the day when it could interfere with your evening sleep.
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