Why do babies go through a “sleep regression” at the age of 4 months?
Have you ever heard the term “sleeping like a baby” to describe someone who is in a deep state of sleep? It should really say “sleeping like a baby before the age of 4 months”. The reason for this is because babies under the age of 4 months are built to sleep and they sleep very well in most situations.
Two different types of regulatory mechanisms control the biological development in babies and how they sleep. The first regulatory system (the homeostatic control mechanism) is what causes babies under the age of 4 months to sleep whenever they need to sleep. This regulatory system works much like our body’s ability to cool itself by sweating when we become overheated. We have no control over this. It’s just an automatic and natural defense mechanism with which we are built. Babies under the age of 4 months don’t have control over falling asleep when they need to sleep; it just happens naturally. Their bodies are just made to do so. Once parents are comfortable and happy with their incredibly good sleeper, everything changes.
A baby’s body goes through a biological change at around the age of 4 months. Many people have labeled this change as a “sleep regression” because their babies suddenly seem to STOP sleeping like they once did. They tend to “wake-up” and start taking notice of the world around them. This sudden change is caused by the development of the second regulatory system (the circadian timing system). This internal timing system automatically regulates the body’s need for sleep according to the sun. Once it is dark and temperatures cool off at night, the body begins to produce the hormone melatonin. Melatonin signals our brains to relax and become ready for deep sleep. If we wait too long to go to sleep we become overtired. The longer we stay awake and the more we are exposed to any kind of light the harder it will be for us to fall asleep. Once we reach that state of overtiredness our bodies produce a rush of the hormone adrenaline. That rush makes it even harder to relax and we tend to struggle even more with falling asleep. Babies have that same problem only they don’t understand what’s going on with their bodies. They just can’t fall asleep without the help of their parents and an ideal sleep environment. We need to get them to a consistent and comfortable sleeping place at the times when their bodies are most biologically sleepy in order for them to get the restorative sleep they need. If we do not do so, they will become overtired and then a cycle of bad sleep habits will begin to form.
The 4-month-old “sleep regression” is NO match for Baby Sleep Well
At Baby Sleep Well we don’t view the 4-month sleep regression as a threat. Instead we see this time as a perfect opportunity to begin preparing a baby for learning the skills necessary to ensure a lifetime of healthy sleep. Sleep is a not something that comes naturally to babies over the age of 4 months and we as parents need to provide the tools and techniques that a baby will use in order to get their sleeping habits right where they need to be. Contact us today. Together we can overcome this obstacle and keep your baby sleeping soundly!