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. 

An electroencephalogram (EEG) shows the electrical activity of the brain and is used to detect and help us understand the different stages of sleep. You may be familiar with EEG waveforms, which are classified according to their frequency, amplitude and location of detection. EEG waveforms include alpha, beta, theta and delta waves.

Stage One - The earliest stage of sleep, referred to as drowsiness or presleep. An EEG shows a drop in alpha activity and slow rolling eye movements are recorded.

Stage Two - The predominant sleep stage during a normal night’s sleep, classified by the appearance of sleep spindles on an EEG. An EEG shows a decrease in the frequency of waveforms and increase in the amplitude. Sleep spindles are high frequency clusters of waveforms that generally last 1-2 seconds. Sleep spindles first appear in infants aged 6-8 weeks.

Stage Three - moderate to deep “slow wave” sleep. During this stage our bodies are busy repairing and rejuvenating, growing and developing. An EEG shows the number of sleep spindles decreases and the amplitude of low frequency waves increases.

Stage Four - REM (rapid eye movement) It’s during this stage we do most of our dreaming and our brain consolidates information and memories. 

A normal sleep  cycle consist of all four stages repeated. Unlike new borns, who skip the first two stages, going straight to deep sleep. 

Around four months your baby starts going through all four stages of sleep . With these changes, they are spending more time 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.