12-month sleep regression

The 12-month sleep regression is a temporary setback in sleep habits commonly experienced around a child's first birthday. Exciting developmental milestones, changes in their routine, and teething could be what's causing them to wake frequently or struggle to fall asleep. Sometimes you just have to wait for a sleep regression to pass, but you may be able to help your child regain their old sleep habits by sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and revisiting sleep training.

A baby standing in a crib
Photo credit: © Lauren Lee / Stocksy United

At a year old, your baby is likely sleeping better – and hopefully, they're sleeping through the night by now. But sometimes, just as you're growing accustomed to getting some shuteye, a temporary setback could throw you for a loop.

If your little one was previously sleeping for long stretches at night and regularly napping well during the day, but has suddenly started struggling with their sleep routine, they might be going through a sleep regression.

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While frustrating and exhausting, sleep regression is expected in the first few years of a child's life. Changes to their routine, developmental milestones, and illnesses can cause a setback in your child's sleep patterns. For parents desperate for better sleep, coping with a sleep regression can be challenging. However, armed with patience and a few ideas below, you can get through this temporary phase.

(And for more in-depth information about sleep regressions, as well as how to combat them, check out Baby Sleep 101 from BabyCenter Courses.)

What causes the 12-month sleep regression

No one event or cause can be blamed for a sleep regression. Unfortunately, some parents never figure out what triggered a phase of wakefulness and resistance to sleep in their child. Still, a handful of common causes could be behind this challenging phase in your little one's life.

  • Milestones. At a year old, your toddler is making massive developmental leaps! They're probably adept at crawling around the house and might be working on their very first steps. And around their first birthday, many toddlers are learning their first words. These new skills are exciting, and your little one might be too busy practicing to get good sleep.
  • Separation anxiety. When your baby was around 8 or 9 months old, you probably got your first glimpses of separation anxiety. At 12 months old, it's still perfectly normal for your child to become anxious and emotional when they're separated from you and other loved ones. This developmentally appropriate response can disrupt sleep, making it hard for them to settle in for naps or go back to sleep if they wake at night.
  • Sleep cycle changes. Newborns only have two sleep stages: REM (rapid-eye movement) and non-REM. As your baby gets older, their sleep cycle starts to change and look more like an adult's, with four sleep stages (three of these are types of non-REM sleep, and the fourth is REM). This is typically why babies start sleeping for longer stretches, but cycling through these different stages can also cause them to wake up and struggle to fall back asleep as they get used to the new pattern.
  • Discomfort. TeethingOpens a new window is a big part of a 1-year-old's life, causing pain and discomfort that could keep them awake. Illnesses such as common colds or ear infections can also negatively affect sleep.
  • Environment. Your toddler is much more aware of what's happening in the world around them, making them sensitive to any changes to their environment. Excessive noise, too much light, and too much time in front of screens could trigger sleeping problems. Similarly, a vacation or outing that messes with their nap or bedtime routine could be hard on their sleep.

12-month sleep regression signs

The best way to describe a sleep regression is as a sudden setback in your child's sleep habits. At a year old, your toddler needs about 14 hours of sleep every day, including two naps during the day (though your child will likely transition to only one nap in the next few months).

If your toddler was a healthy sleeper but suddenly doesn't sleep as well, here are some signs it's a sleep regression:

  • They wake multiple times a night for more than a few days.
  • They fuss and seem wide awake when it's bedtime or naptime.
  • They sleep more during the day and are fussier than usual, since they aren't getting enough sleep at night.
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How long does the 12-month sleep regression last?

There's no set time frame for a sleep regression. Each child is different and will experience disruption to their sleep in different ways. How you respond and the cause behind the regression can also influence how long it'll take to get back to sleeping well.

Sleep regressions can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. If you've put significant effort into reestablishing a sleep routine but haven't seen improvements in your toddler's sleep after four weeks, talk to their pediatrician. They may be able to offer suggestions or even pinpoint an underlying cause behind their sleep issues.

Sleep regressions can happen any time, but especially at 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, and 18 months.

How to cope with the 12-month sleep regression

Most of the time, getting through the 12-month sleep regression is about practicing patience and getting sleep whenever possible. Here are a few other ways to cope with sleep regression and encourage your little one to get back to sleeping soundly.

  • Commit to their routine. If you've grown more relaxed about your toddler's bedtime and naptime routines, now's the time to recommit. Predictability is a vital part of "sleep hygiene" – habits you can practice to get better sleep.
  • Help them get comfortable. Teething or discomfort from illnesses can throw off even the very best sleepers. If your toddler isn't feeling well, talk to your doctor about what medication is safe to help them get more comfortable and sleep more soundly.
  • Keep them active and engaged during the day. Giving your toddler plenty of playtime outside during the day can get them ready to sleep at bedtime. This, combined with a calm and quiet bedtime routine, can help your toddler wind down after a long day of activities.
  • Create a calm environment. Set up their bedroom and crib so there aren't any distractions. Keep the room dark and quiet at night, and remove toys and books from their bed. Blackout curtains and a sound machine can help set the mood for sleep.
  • Try sleep training. If you sleep-trained your toddler when they were younger, they may need a refresher course. And if you haven't tried it yet, it's not too late! There are a few methods to teaching your baby how to fall asleep on their own: cry it out, fading, gentle, and the Ferber method.
  • Give them a transitional object like a lovey. If they don't have one yet, a comfort object, like a blanket or stuffed animal, may help your toddler soothe themself back to sleep when they wake up during the night.
  • Manage separation anxiety. Helping your toddler deal with separation anxiety during the day may improve their nighttime worries.
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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

Sleep Foundation. 2022. 12-Month Sleep Regression. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

Nemours Foundation. 2019. Sleep and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

Children's Health. Undated. Sleep regression in infants and toddlers. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

American Academy of Pediatrics. 2018. Getting Your Baby to Sleep. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

Sleep Foundation. 2022. How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need? a new window [Accessed July 2022]

Sleep Foundation. 2022. How Your Baby's Sleep Cycle Differs From Your Own. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

Mary Sauer

Mary Sauer is a freelance parenting and health writer living in Kansas City. She is a mom of four and loves to hike with her kids, read, and knit. Cooking a complicated meal her kids probably won't eat is one of her favorite pastimes.