12-Month Sleep Regression: Fact or Fiction?

If you’re searching for a specific timeline when your baby’s sleep might experience disruptions, you won’t find it here. Despite the numerous articles online suggesting otherwise, there isn’t scientific evidence supporting the concept of sleep regressions as commonly described. In reality, a child’s sleep patterns can fluctuate for various reasons, and the timing is not predetermined.

However, that doesn’t mean we dismiss the idea entirely. There are valid reasons why your baby’s sleep may become challenging around their first birthday. Moreover, there are steps you can take to address common sleep disturbances. So, if you’ve established a good sleep routine with your child over the past few months and want to maintain it, keep reading.

What is the 12-month sleep regression?

The 12-month sleep regression refers to a temporary setback in your baby’s regular nighttime sleep schedule, which can occur even after months of consistent sleep. This sudden night waking may seem unexpected, but it’s likely connected to the new skills your little one is developing during the day.

At this age, your baby is learning to move around, possibly taking their first steps and becoming more vocal. The excitement of these discoveries can make them restless and eager to practice their newfound abilities at any hour of the night.

The developmental milestones typically associated with the 12-month sleep regression include cruising, attempting to walk, and saying their first words (or expanding their vocabulary).

Additionally, your toddler is going through cognitive growth and changes, which may lead to bedtime protests or separation anxiety when waking up at night.

Is there a sleep regression at 12 months?

First and foremost, sleep regressions (periods when a baby’s sleep patterns worsen suddenly) can happen at any age. However, it’s quite common to observe nap-related challenges in babies around the age of 12 months. Since daytime sleep affects nighttime sleep, issues with night waking and early rising can also arise.

Does this mean all babies will experience sleep difficulties around their first birthday? No! Adjusting your baby’s awake time between naps and establishing healthy sleep habits can help maintain consistent sleep for your baby.

Why do 12-month-old babies face sleep issues?

Reason #1: Transitioning from two naps to one

Most children are not ready to transition to a single nap at this age. If you thought babies should drop a nap right after their first birthday, you’re not alone; it’s a common misconception. Making this transition too early can lead to chronic overtiredness, resulting in increased night waking and early rising, which we aim to avoid.

Reason #2: Longer awake windows are necessary

Let’s discuss daytime struggles, such as shorter naps, skipped naps, and resistance to napping. Babies who have outgrown the 3-3.5 hour awake window may struggle to fall asleep at their usual nap times due to insufficient sleep pressure. In other words, they may not feel tired enough to nap, leading to skipped naps or prolonged time to fall asleep.

Reason #3: Mastering developmental milestones

It’s common for night waking and resistance to bedtime to occur when babies are mastering new developmental milestones (Mindell et al., 2015). At 12 months old, many babies are pulling themselves up, standing, or even walking. While these milestones are exciting, they can also introduce new sleep challenges.

Reason #4: Hunger

Hunger can disrupt a good night’s sleep at any age. After the first birthday, most children should receive the majority of their nutrition from solid foods rather than breast milk or formula. This transition period can affect sleep if your little one isn’t getting enough food during the day (typically three meals and two snacks).

Reason #5: Assistance falling asleep

Let’s be clear: we won’t pass judgment on how your children fall asleep. If your baby relies on your help (e.g., feeding, rocking, or being held) to fall asleep, we’re here to support you as long as it works for your family and is safe. However, in many cases, parental assistance at bedtime can lead to sleep issues, such as increased calls for help throughout the night and overall less sleep.

Signs that your baby is experiencing the 12-month sleep regression

– Trouble falling asleep or settling down at bedtime and naptime: If your 1-year-old or almost-1-year-old is no longer going to bed easily and peacefully as before, it could be due to the 12-month sleep regression.

– More frequent nighttime wake-ups: If your older baby starts waking up more often during the night after previously sleeping through or nearly sleeping through, it could be a sign of the 12-month sleep regression.

– Fussiness: A baby going through a sleep regression may be sleep-deprived, leading to crankiness and even tantrums. Ensure they are getting the recommended 11 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, including naps.

– Longer naps: Increased daytime sleep could indicate that your baby is compensating for sleep lost during the night due to the sleep regression.

How long do 12-month sleep issues last?

There is no definitive timeframe for sleep issues at this age. The duration of the problems depends on the cause and the steps taken to address them.

Does the 12-month regression affect naps if my 12-month-old won’t nap?

It’s common for 11 to 12-month-olds to outgrow their 3 to 3.5 hour wake windows, leading to nap challenges often referred to as the “12-month sleep regression.” These challenges may include skipped naps, short naps, and resistance to napping. Adjusting the schedule and naptime routines can often resolve these daytime sleep issues.

5 tips to handle 12-month sleep issues or regressions:

Tip #1: Don’t drop the nap too early: Most children at this age are not ready to transition to a single nap consistently. Maintain a two-nap schedule until around 14 to 18 months old to avoid sleep disruptions.

Tip #2: Lengthen wake windows: If your baby is having trouble sleeping at nap or bedtime, consider extending the awake time between sleep periods to 3.5 to 4 hours. Longer wake windows can ensure your baby is tired enough for both naps.

Tip #3: Allow practice time for milestones: If your baby is mastering new developmental milestones like pulling up or walking, give them ample opportunities to practice during the day. This can help them progress faster, even though it may result in some lost sleep temporarily.

Tip #4: Maintain consistent pre-sleep routines: Establish and follow a regular naptime and bedtime routine. Consistent routines not only improve sleep but also offer other developmental benefits.

Tip #5: Focus on independent sleep skills: Encourage your one-year-old to develop independent sleep skills. If you currently assist them in falling asleep, consider gradually transitioning them to self-soothing techniques. You can explore various sleep training methods or seek personalized guidance, such as through Huckleberry Premium.

12 month sleep regression FAQ

Q: Is the 12-month sleep regression a myth?

A: No, the 12-month sleep regression is not a myth. Many babies experience new nap struggles around 12 months old as they outgrow their previous wake windows.

Q: Can a sleep regression happen at 12 months?

A: Yes, sleep regressions can happen at any age due to various reasons such as illness, travel, and developmental milestones. A baby’s routines and environment can also impact sleep patterns.

Q: Do all babies have sleep regression at 12 months?

A: No, not all babies experience sleep regressions at 12 months. There is no evidence to support that the majority of babies go through setbacks at specific ages. However, many 12-month-olds may benefit from a schedule adjustment that allows for a two-nap schedule with longer wake windows between sleep periods.

Q: Why is my 12-month-old baby not sleeping?

A: Babies at this age often skip naps because they require longer wake windows of 3.5 – 4 hours. This may give the impression that they are ready for a one-nap schedule, but it is important to remember that they still need two naps. Lengthening the awake time between sleep periods can help.

Q: Can babies have nightmares at 12 months?

A: It is possible for babies at 12 months to have dreams, including potentially frightening ones, during REM sleep. While verbal toddlers may occasionally describe nightmares, there isn’t enough evidence to support the occurrence of bad dreams in children this young.

Q: My 12-month-old baby won’t sleep unless held. What should I do?

A: Consider sleep training methods to help your baby learn to fall asleep without being held. Techniques like Ferber and Cry it Out exist, but there are also more gradual approaches available. If you prefer minimizing tears, a gentle method where your assistance is gradually reduced over time may be more suitable.

Q: How long does the 12-month sleep regression last?

A: The duration of the 12-month sleep regression can vary from child to child. Typically, it lasts for a few weeks to a couple of months.

Q: How do I stop the 12-month sleep regression?

A: To navigate the 12-month sleep regression, establish a consistent bedtime routine, create a soothing sleep environment, and provide comfort to your child during nighttime awakenings. Reassurance and maintaining a predictable sleep schedule can also be beneficial.

Q: Is there a sleep regression at 12 months?

A: Yes, a sleep regression commonly occurs around 12 months of age for many children. This regression can be influenced by developmental changes, separation anxiety, or teething, which disrupt sleep patterns.

Q: Why is my 12-year-old not sleeping all of a sudden?

A: Sudden changes in sleep patterns in a 12-year-old can be due to factors such as increased screen time, stress, hormonal changes, or lifestyle adjustments. It’s important to identify the underlying cause and establish healthy sleep habits.

Q: Is the 12-month sleep regression real?

A: Yes, the 12-month sleep regression is a real phenomenon experienced by many infants. It refers to a temporary disruption in a child’s sleep patterns and can be attributed to various developmental and behavioral changes.

Q: What makes the 12-month sleep regression so challenging?

A: The 12-month sleep regression can be challenging due to increased night waking, difficulty falling asleep, and changes in sleep duration. It disrupts the established sleep routine and often requires adjustments to help the child adapt to new developmental milestones.

Q: Should I let the baby cry it out during the 12-month sleep regression?

A: The decision to let a baby cry it out during the 12-month sleep regression is a personal choice for parents. Some may choose to implement sleep training methods, including controlled crying, while others may prefer gentler approaches involving comforting the baby to sleep. It’s essential to consider the needs and comfort of both the child and the parents.

Q: How can I overcome the 12-month sleep regression?

A: To manage the 12-month sleep regression, maintain a consistent sleep schedule, follow a soothing bedtime routine, address any discomfort or developmental needs, and provide reassurance to the child during nighttime awakenings. Patience and consistency are key when helping a child navigate this phase.


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