The 8-month sleep regression is a sudden change in an infant’s sleeping pattern that occurs at about 8 months of age.
While very few studies have investigated sleep regressions, many parents and caregivers notice distinct changes in their babies’ sleeping habits at specific stages throughout infancy.
Below, learn what may be behind these sleep regressions, how long they last, and how to help an infant stay asleep.
Many parents and caregivers report sudden, unexplained disruptions in their babies’ sleeping habits.
Yet because there have been very few formal investigations into these regressions, doctors are still unsure what causes them and how many babies experience them.
According to the authors of an older case report from 2002, sleep regressions may coincide with major developmental brain changes that occur at about 2, 7, 13, and 21 months of age. These changes may trigger sleeping difficulties.
An even older study, from 1991, investigated sleep regressions using data from 15 mother-infant pairs. The researchers likewise found that reported periods of reduced sleep coincided with reported behavioral changes.
It may be that changes in the brain trigger changes in both behavior and sleep patterns.
For example, at 8 months of age, a baby may be gaining the ability to crawl or pull themselves up on furniture. A baby may spend the evening crawling around the bed or pulling themselves into a standing position rather than sleeping.
Also, spending more time throughout the day practicing crawling, standing, or walking may disrupt the normal routine and reduce the interest in nursing and other bedtime rituals.
Because of the scant research, doctors do not know how long the average sleep regression lasts, but most reports suggest that sleeping habits are disrupted for around 2–6 weeks.
Maintaining a healthful sleep routine can help shorten or ward off a regression. Try:
- having a bedtime ritual, which might include:
- giving the baby a bath
- reading stories
- singing a lullaby
- not altering the baby’s sleep schedule or routine during the regression
- ensuring that the sleeping environment is:
- free from television or computer screens
- trying a white noise machine to help the baby stay asleep
To improve a baby’s sleep, it may also help to avoid television. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of educational programs and other screen media for babies younger than 18 months.
Also, a 2010 analysis found that infants who watched television slept for shorter periods.
It can also help to be extra responsive to nighttime needs for comfort and attention — another 2010 study found that additional emotional availability at bedtime could improve an infant’s sleep.
Most 8-month-olds need around 14 hours of sleep per day. This typically involves around 10 or 11 hours of sleep at night and 3–4 hours of daytime napping.
During a regression, sleep may become more scattered. A baby may take shorter or fewer naps and sleep longer at night, or they may take longer or more frequent naps and spend less time asleep at night.
If a baby has not gotten enough sleep, they may be overtired and cranky.
It can be hard to tell whether sleeplessness results from a sleep regression or the discomfort of teething.
Most babies get their incisor teeth, which sit at the front of the mouth, between the ages of 8 and 12 months. For some babies, teething coincides with a sleep regression.
For some babies teething may be painful, and some signs of teething may include:
- being fussier than usual
- crying for long periods
- being unable to sleep
- not wanting to eat
- chewing on objects more than usual
Anyone who suspects that their baby is teething should ask a healthcare provider for guidance. Usually, a parent or caregiver only needs to employ simple strategies, such as providing something cool to chew on.
If the baby continues to be restless, they may be experiencing a sleep regression.
While the causes of an infant’s sleep regressions are still unclear, they seem to coincide with certain developmental milestones.
The 8-month sleep regression can be exhausting for parents and caregivers, especially if their babies had only recently settled into comfortable sleep routines.
It may help to keep in mind that these regressions are temporary and typically resolve within 6 weeks. In the meantime, it is important to maintain healthful sleep routines and a peaceful, relaxing sleep environment.
Anyone concerned about sleep regressions should contact a doctor for advice.