Turning one is often an important milestone birthday, but it can also be a moment fraught with unexpected challenges. One year old sleep regression is a very frequent occurrence, but sleep regressions can also occur at an earlier age.
Many babies experience sleep regression at six months, and it is also common in babies between the ages of eight and 10 months.
Sleep regressions can occur for many reasons. This article will explore:
- Common reasons behind 1-year-old sleep regression
- Signs of one-year-old sleep regression
- How you can help your child
- Frequent questions around 1-year-old sleep regression
The causes behind 1-year-old sleep regression
Night wakings are a common occurrence in babies, and they can be caused by factors such:
- Changes in your baby’s normal sleep habits. For instance, insufficient naps during the day can lead to more fragmented sleep at night. It is not uncommon for babies to resist nap times during the day as they grow older. However, one-year-old babies need their rest and cutting back on daytime naps can affect their nighttime sleeping habits.
- Wrong timing. If you put your baby to sleep too early, perhaps because they missed their daytime nap, they may have more disturbed nighttime sleep.
- Fatigue. You’ve probably already noticed that your baby has difficulty sleeping on the nights that they are tired most – fatigue is actually one of the common reasons behind 1-year-old sleep regression.
- Separation anxiety is common between the ages of nine and 12 months and it occurs when your baby begins to feel anxious at the thought of being without you. This can lead to clingy behavior during the day and to night wake-ups.
- Night terrors. As your baby grows older and their minds and imaginations develop, they may begin to have nighttime fears, and these can impact their sleeping habits.
Sleep regression is associated with your child’s development. The baby years are filled with multiple transformations and these changes can affect your child’s sleep behavior.
At age one, your baby has developed many new skills and abilities – they are more mobile, more vocal, and they are also learning that they can protest! It is thought that all these changes and new discoveries increases their excitement, impacting their sleeping patterns.
Common signs of 1-year-old sleep regression
If your baby is experiencing one-year-old sleep regression, there are several signs that you might have already noticed. You may:
- See a change in their sleeping habits. For instance, while your baby may have enjoyed their naptime in the past, they may begin to fuss when it’s time to go to sleep.
- Notice that your baby resists going to sleep. For instance, they may resist their naps during the day, and this could lead to overtiredness and to a change in their nighttime sleeping habits.
- See changes in your baby’s daytime sleeping. For instance, they may begin taking longer naps during the day to catch up on the sleep that they are losing at night.
- Notice that your baby is waking up more frequently at night.
- Notice that your one-year-old is awake at night for longer stretches than in the past.
Here are five things that can help you deal with one-year-old sleep regression.
Tips to help you cope with one-year-old sleep regression
1) Keep an eye out for your baby’s signals
Different babies reveal their need for sleep in different ways. Yours might rub their eyes, yawn, become increasingly fussy, and so on. It is important to pay attention to their signals so as to put them to sleep at the right time.
Do not wait for your baby to become overtired before putting them to sleep. Overtiredness is one of the most common reasons behind sleeping issues in babies.
2) Adopt a pre-sleep routine
At age one, your baby’ memory capacity is better developed, meaning that they can remember things more easily. This is particularly important when it comes to transitions. If you adopt a pre-sleep routine, your one-year-old begins to understand that certain activities lead to nap/sleep time, and this helps to prepare them mentally for sleep.
Common pre-sleep routines include a bath, a story or even a lullaby. Doing a specific activity regularly makes the sleep transition easier. It is important to stick to one activity and to avoid activities that excite your child, especially if they are struggling with 1-year-old sleep regression.
3) Allow your child to learn to self-soothe
All sleep experts agree that picking up your baby as soon as they fuss is not the best of strategies. They say that in so doing, you prevent them from developing their self-soothing skills.
Instead, give your baby a few minutes to see if they will fall back asleep without your intervention. If they do not, check on them – let them know that you are there – but try not to pick them up.
4) Make nighttime waking as uninteresting as possible
If your baby thinks that waking up at night is interesting for them, they will continue to do so. That is why it is important to let them know that there is no fun in nighttime waking. This could mean:
- Avoiding picking them up.
- Giving them water instead of feeding them.
- Avoiding all types of games or activities at night.
That said, separation anxiety is common in babies at around this age, meaning that it is important for your baby to feel safe and reassured. They also need to know that you are present.
Cuddling with them before you put them to sleep can help them sleep better. If they wake up at night, speaking reassuring words (“I’m here”, “It’s okay”) and giving them brief caresses can also help reassure them that they are safe.
5) Ensure that your child is sufficiently stimulated
At age one, your baby is at an age of discovery, curiosity and adventure. They are more mobile and their fine and gross motor skills are also more fully developed. They therefore need to engage in stimulating mental and physical activities throughout the day.
This is helpful for the development of multiple important skills, and it also helps them to build up healthy fatigue which will lead to healthy sleep.
Montessori toys for 1-year-old babies
The importance of a sleep routine for 1-year-olds
Your baby wakes up just as you lay them down? You are not alone! This is normal behavior in babies, and it is related to the fact that your warm arms rocking them are much more comforting than their cool mattress. It is also related to the fact that your baby has not yet learned to fall asleep by themselves.
Sleep schedules are one of the most important things that you can do to help your baby learn to fall asleep independently.
The best sleep schedule depends on your baby: some babies are early risers, others are not. Also, it is important to privilege a schedule that fits in nicely with your family environment.
If your baby is not yet on a schedule, keeping a sleep diary will help you determine when they need to sleep so that you can schedule naps and bedtimes according to their needs. It can also help you to put your baby to sleep when they are awake – thus teaching them to fall asleep by themselves – and before they get overtired.
That said, having a sleep schedule does not mean forcing your baby to go to bed at a specific hour every day. Babies’ natural rhythms change regularly, so it is important to be observant to keep track of your baby’s changing needs and to adapt their sleeping routine accordingly.
Final words on 1-year-old sleep regression
Babies are different, meaning that some may take longer than others to fall into a healthy sleep pattern. As mentioned earlier, having a sleep schedule is one of the most effective ways of helping your baby learn to fall asleep (and stay asleep) by themselves.
If you are experiencing 1-year-old sleep regression, be patient and keep to your regular schedule.
Also, it is important to note that while night wakings are rather frequent, they are often short-lived for many babies. For instance, it is normal for your child’s sleep to be fitful when in a different environment, then to become normal once they are back home or once they have become more accustomed to their new environment.
Frequently asked questions
What is one-year-old sleep regression?
At around the time your baby turns one, it is not uncommon to observe changes in their sleeping habits. This is often accompanied by fussy behavior, changes in their sleep patterns including their naps, staying awake for longer periods at night and more frequent night wakings.
How much sleep do 1-year-olds need?
Most 1-year-olds sleep need between 13 and 14 hours of sleep (10 to 12 hours nighttime sleep and about 3 to 4 hours daytime naps).
When does one-year-old sleep regression end?
Night wakings are common among babies, but we talk about sleep regression when your baby’s sleep pattern changes for at least three consecutive days. These changes can last for several days or even several weeks, but they are often short-lived for most babies.
Should I see my doctor about my baby’s 1 year old sleep regression
The good news about babies’ sleep problems is that there is always a solution. Sometimes, it is necessary to seek professional assistance to help your child learn to fall – and stay – asleep. Please speak to your family doctor if you are feeling overwhelmed by your child’s sleep issues. They will give you important tips to help both you and your baby get a good night’s sleep!
References and further reading
Understanding sleep–wake behavior and sleep disorders in children: the value of a model.
Circadian phase and its relationship to nighttime sleep in toddlers.
The timing of the circadian clock and sleep differ between napping and non-napping toddlers.
Infant sleep problems: Origins, assessment, interventions.
Seriously is there another one coming? I’ve just dealt with the 8 months one! I’ve been sleep training with this guide in a nutshell and I’m still surprised how fast and effective and tears-free it was and helped up with 8mo sleep regression. I don’t even want to think about the next one coming. Thanks for the upfront!
Sanya Pelini, Ph.D. says
Thanks for stopping by Anette 🙂 Not all babies go through the 1-year-regression though… Fingers crossed!