Four Month Sleep Regression

Dr Kathryn Johns

The four month sleep regression... It’s a thing!! How did you all cope?

Let me share with you my experience when Harper, my second daughter started to go through sleep regression. By 6 weeks Harper, the golden child, was either sleeping through or waking once a night and sleeping until 7.30ish. Was I tired? Yes.. Exhausted? No. 

 Liz, Vince and Grace

Then it happened. Harper turned four months and two days old and the sleep regression began. 

I’m lucky, my best friend, business partner and twin sister (aka Liz), has spent all of her working osteo career treating babies. So I asked Liz what exactly is happening to Harper? Why, around four months, do babies regress with sleep? Can osteopathy help? Here is what Liz had to say: 

Firstly, the 4 month sleep regression is absolutely normal (hard but normal, exhausting but normal). As hard as it might feel right now, congratulations, your little bubba has reached a developmental milestone!

To help understand what’s going on with your bubba it’s important to understand the 4 stages of sleep. 

The stages of sleep are categorised by light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep. A normal sleep cycle consist of four stages of sleep that are repeated every 90-120 minutes. Newborns skip the first two stages of sleep and go straight to deep sleep (Stage 3 & Stage 4). 

Stage One - The earliest stage of sleep, referred to as drowsiness or pre-sleep. This is the lightest stage of sleep when we can easily be woken. Slow rolling eye movements that occur as our bodies relax and soften.

Stage Two - The predominant sleep stage during a normal night’s sleep. Stage comprises approximately 40-60% of our sleep time. Still classes as light sleep, the body reduces its activity to prepare for deep sleep. Body temperature increases and heart rate decreases.

Stage Three - Moderate to deep “slow wave” sleep. During this stage our bodies are busy repairing and rejuvenating, growing and developing. In stage 3, we are least likely to be interrupted or woken from external stimuli.

Stage Four - REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It is during this stage we do most of our dreaming and our brain consolidates information and memories. During REM breathing is rapid, irregular and shallow. If woken during REM sleep, we can wake feeling tired or groggy.

Normally at the age of four months your baby starts going through all four stages of sleep . With these changes, more time is spent in lighter sleep, making it easier to wake. During this period your baby is also going through developmental changes and becoming more alert adding to the ease at which they wake up. 

The good news is, although this is a permanent change to your babies sleep cycle, they will adapt. They will sleep again, you will sleep again!

Can osteopathy help? There is limited research into the benefits of osteopathy in helping improve babes sleeping. However it is very common for parents to bring their kids in for treatment to help with sleep. From my clinical experience, osteopathic treatment is really helpful in removing tension and we all know when we remove tension in our bodies we feel more relaxed. As a result we often see babies sleep patterns improve with treatment.