Sleep regression & deprivation

Understand what causes sleep regression and learn how to keep your child’s sleep on track.

Your health expert: Dr Robin Clarke, Medical Director, Bupa UK Insurance
Publish date 21/03/2024.
Next review 21/03/2025

Dr Robin Clark, Bupa UK Insurance’s Medical Director, shares what to expect when it comes to sleep regression, and how sleep deprivation can impact both carers and children.

What is sleep regression?

Sleep regression is when a child’s usually good sleeping pattern, or habits, change. Children may struggle to fall to sleep or sleep through the night. It can be difficult if your child’s sleeping pattern changes, but it’s often a natural part of their development. As your child’s brain develops, so does their sleep cycle.
Young babies spend more time in deep sleep. Once they reach about four months old, they may become less likely to sleep through the night. This is because they’re beginning to experience other phases of the sleep cycle, making their sleep naturally lighter.
Sleep regression is different for every child. But, each regression usually lasts between one and two weeks before returning to a more predictable pattern.

What do the search engines say?

The UK’s Google search habits reinforce that sleep regression can affect many ages, as well as their sleep-deprived careers.

In the last year, regression-based queries have increased.

Sleep regression ages

Sleep regression doesn’t happen at an exact age, it varies from child to child. It’s common for the first to happen at around four months old.

Developmental milestones in the first three years can also trigger sleep regression. This could include:

  • growth spurts
  • language learning
  • teething

Signs of sleep regression include:

  • less predictable and less consistent sleep
  • being more irritable or emotional than usual
  • difficulty napping
  • becoming clingier or finding it difficult to be away from caregivers

How to deal with sleep regression

It might be tempting to think that your child’s sleep regression is happening because of something you’ve done. Don’t forget that occasional problems with your child’s sleep are completely normal.

Getting your child’s sleep back on track isn’t always easy, especially if you’re sleep deprived too. However, patience and consistency are key. These tips may help your child to get back on track:

Benefits of bedtime lullabies

Studies show that lullabies can help children get to sleep more quickly. This is especially true when they’re sung by parents or caregivers.

Lullabies trigger a relaxation response. Physiological activity lessens, heart rate slows and pupils dilate.

Three factors that make a great lullaby

What exactly makes the best lullabies? We’ve analysed some of Spotify's public playlists to find out.

Modern lullabies

We’ve taken these principles to pull together a modern day lullaby playlist for parents in need of a helping hand:

Sleep deprivation in parents and caregivers

Sleep deprivation symptoms can include difficulty thinking, speaking and remembering things. In mothers, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing postnatal depression.

Lack of sleep on its own can increase your stress levels. So, when you’re caring for a child going through sleep regression it’s important to take care of yourself. Charging yourself up on coffee isn’t always enough.

In the short term, sleep deprivation can leave parents more vulnerable to:

In the long-term, sleep deprivation can also lead to other health problems like:

It’s never too early to try and address a lack of sleep, especially if you’re struggling with your mood. Speak to your health visitor or midwife for further help. If you have family health insurance, don’t forget that there’s specialised help to help you get back on track.

A woman is holding her baby

Sleep information from the experts

Find expert information about how age and health can affect your sleep. You can also browse our helpful articles on a range of sleep related conditions.

Learn more about sleep

Support for families

Google Keyword Planner averages, July 2023 vs August 2022

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