We all know that 12-month sleep regression is a thing. Whether we want to admit it or not, our little ones undergo this natural process during the first months of their life.
Now, 12-month sleep regression can be a frustrating time for parents. It is one of the most common forms of sleep disturbance at 12 months old. Such kinds of regressions are usually caused by kids’ rapid development.
It might be also that you, the parent, have changed your child’s bed or naptime routine.
The good news is that 12-month sleep regression doesn’t last forever!
Here, today, I help you know what a 12-month sleep regression is. I’ll also highlight some of its causes along with some tips on how you can cope.
What is 12-month sleep regression?
12-month sleep regression is a natural process during which your child’s sleep patterns might change. It usually occurs in the period between 11 and 13 months of age.
By this time, babies are more aware of their surroundings.
They start becoming increasingly active. This means that they become less likely to fall asleep quickly. It also inevitably means that don’t stay asleep for long periods at night.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should worry. It’s completely normal for your child to experience sleep disturbances at least once or twice throughout their first year of life.
What causes 12-month sleep regression?
There are a few reasons why your baby might be going through a 12-month sleep regression.
Here, I list the factors that most commonly cause such regressions.
a. Changes in bedtime routine or schedule
Around 12 months, your child will start becoming more active and aware of their surroundings. This means that their natural sleep patterns can change throughout the day.
Your child will now have shorter naps and will go to bed later than before.
Thus, parents need to keep track of these changes and adjust accordingly. (e.g., readjusting nap times)
b. Cognitive development
As your child’s cognitive skills develop, they will become more aware of their surroundings. This means that it will be harder for them to fall asleep on their own at night or during naps.
c. Illness/developmental milestones
By now, your child should be somewhat familiar with what illness means to him/her along with how he can cope with it better than before (if worked through). However, if your baby has been ill recently, it can lead to sleep disturbances.
c. A difficult transition from crib to bed
If your child has been always using a crib until now, it might be hard for them to adjust their new big-kid bed. Parents must prepare the environment carefully before transitioning into a toddler or twin-size bed.
d. Illness or teething
Illnesses, especially respiratory issues, can cause your child’s sleep patterns to change. This is because when we’re sick we tend not to get enough rest. It leads us to feel constantly restless throughout the day and night.
Teething pains might also disrupt your baby’s naps. In the end, it may cause them to wake up frequently during sleep time as well.
e. Separation anxiety
At this age, they start realizing that it’s not just them in the room but also other people. As a result, children might feel less secure about sleeping on their own.
They will also fear getting separated from you, the parent, during sleep time.
f. Physical comfort
For example, they might need more covers than usual.
Some babies and toddlers will only sleep after their cots meet specific conditions.
Some tend to use their stuffed animals or blanket as security objects during sleep time. In this case, most wouldn’t want to let go of it at night.
Thus, if you don’t give them these items, they might not sleep at all.
g. Traveling/visiting new places/people etc
Around this time, you might take your baby with you when visiting relatives or traveling. The journey might be due to work or recreational purposes.
Well, this sudden shift in routine could cause a temporary change in your child’s sleeping patterns. It might also cause them to be more restless and less likely to fall asleep quickly.
Signs and symptoms of 12-month sleep regression
As mentioned earlier, sleep regressions are pretty normal and aren’t cause for concern.
Even so, if your baby’s experiencing these signs or symptoms at night, you should take action quickly.
a. Frequent nightmares/night terrors
You might notice that your child wakes up out of their slumber all of a sudden after an hour or two.
This isn’t because he doesn’t like sleeping anymore. It might be because of bad dreams or other night terrors. If this is happening repeatedly, we need to take action before things get worse for the both of you.
b. Increased irritability/fussiness
Your child might be extra fussy throughout the day even though they’ve had enough rest beforehand (napping). And this could happen without any apparent reason.
c. Sleeping erratically
If your child’s usual nap schedule gets disrupted because of the changes mentioned earlier, it might keep them from sleeping soundly at night. In turn, they will be more likely to wake up in the middle of their sleep time and want attention immediately.
d. Not appearing tired before bedtime
Your baby or toddler might not look like he needs rest anymore even though he or she acts sleepy.
This could also happen if you’re trying to wean him off napping altogether. Most children require some form of shut-eye twice per day until age three and beyond. (depending on each case)
e. Difficulty getting back to sleep after waking up during nighttime hours
If your child wakes up in the middle of their sleep, they might find it difficult going back to bed after that. They will keep on tossing and turning for a while before finally falling asleep again (if at all).
If you’re not there with them during nighttime hours, be sure to check on them as soon as possible. Don’t let your baby remain alone in their room for too long.
f. Lethargic behavior during the day
If your child keeps on dozing off during the day, likely, they’re not getting enough sleep at night.
You might find out that your baby or toddler has had only a few hours of rest per night. If this happens repeatedly, something needs to get or else things might go off the rails.
g. Unclear speech/slurring words
Your child may sound like he’s drunk when trying to speak. This is because their brain isn’t sending clear signals anymore due to a lack of proper rest at night.
They will also tend to space out quite often if deprived of shut-eye every night without fail. It might be a sign that your 12-month baby may be facing sleep regression.
How long does a 12-month sleep regression last?
Fortunately, these regressions don’t last very long.
If they do, it might be a sign of something more serious like sleep apnea or another medical condition.
Normally, 12-month sleep regressions go away after about 2 weeks.
When should you seek medical advice?
If you notice any signs or symptoms mentioned earlier in your child’s sleeping patterns, take action immediately!
You can also discuss this with your child’s doctor to get their opinion on the matter.
As you have seen, 12-month sleep regression isn’t always caused by outside factors. Oftentimes, changes in your baby’s environment and lifestyle habits are what disturbs their usual nighttime routine.
How to cope with a 12-month’s sleep regression
If your baby’s experiencing any of the above signs, you should take action immediately.
One way is by encouraging them back into their regular sleeping pattern as soon as possible.
a) Reestablishing normal patterns
You can do this by:
- Eliminating all distractions during naptime or nighttime hours
- Reducing noise levels
iii. Stick to the usual nap schedule
- Maintain consistency in hygiene routines
- Establish a calming bedtime routine
- Limit physical activity right before turning in for the night
vii. Ensure that everyone follows an established sleep routine
b) Helping your child get through the sleep regression
If you’ve tried the above steps and nothing seems to work, you might need another approach.
You can do this by:
- Enforcing a strong bedtime routine
It should include reading two stories before lights-out. You can also tuck them into bed early at night or even let them take naps during the day if needed.
2. Finding other ways to soothe them
You can try giving them a warm bath or letting them play with their favorite toy before bedtime.
3. Keep them super active during the day
Give them plenty of physical activity before bedtime. By doing so, your baby will be so worn out at night that they’d gladly welcome sleep.
Tips on how you can prepare for future sleep regressions
To prepare yourself and your child for sleep regressions, you should:
a. Stick with a bedtime routine
This will help them get used to going to sleep at a certain time every night without fail. This can also reduce the chances of waking up in the middle of their slumber if they don’t have one already.
b) Get them outdoors during daytime hours
Getting out into nature is an excellent way to let go of all the stress from work or school. It’s also another great opportunity for your kid to get their daily dose of fresh air and exercise.
c) Establish a healthy sleeping environment
Do whatever you can for them to have the most comfortable sleep possible at night. This might include:
- Getting rid of all distractions from sensory toys, phones, tablets, etc. that could keep them awake.
- Ensuring that their bedroom is well ventilated and temperature controlled.
iii. Having some soft lighting installed into the room.
- Make sure there are no excessive noise levels.
- Reducing clutter or unnecessary items on surfaces
d) Establish a self-soothing routine
Your child can do this by playing with their favorite toys or listening to calming music/white noise before bedtime. This way, they’ll have something familiar on hand which will help them relax more easily during bedtime.
12-month sleep regression shouldn’t scare you as a parent. Thankfully, it’s just another passing phase that toddlers have to go through.
If you spot any of the signs in your baby, ensure that you take action immediately. Also, if the symptoms last longer than a couple of weeks, then it’s a sign you need to see a doctor.
Have you ever had an experience with a 12-month sleep regression? I’d like to hear how you managed to sail through the whole ordeal.