The 2-Year Sleep Regression

Sleep regressions are exhausting, frustrating, and hard– but also normal. In your child’s early years of growth and development, they’re absorbing so much of their environment and learning about the world around them. Sleep regressions typically happen around 4, 6, 8, 12, 18, 24, and 36 months (but every child is different!). Today, I’m sharing sleep tips to help make the 2-year sleep regression a little bit smoother. 

The 2-Year Sleep Regression

The 2-year sleep regression isn’t a guarantee, but it’s super normal to go through. The 2-year sleep regression may feel like it’s completely throwing a wrench into your routine. Don’t worry- it won’t last forever! Your child is learning all sorts of new skills like shapes and colors, playing make-believe, following simple instructions, and developing their motor skills. All of these milestones are life-changing and overwhelming for your little one. As exciting as it all is, it can lead to sleep regressions. Here are some common causes of the 2-year sleep regression:

Testing boundaries 

Trying out their limits (and your patience) is a completely normal part of early childhood development. Although the “terrible twos” may have begun, it doesn’t mean your toddler is actually terrible- it’s totally normal! They will continue to learn and develop as they get older, and will eventually grow out of trying to test boundaries so often. 

Potty training

If your child has started potty training, you’re likely familiar with the accidents and countless nighttime trips to the bathroom. The potty training milestone can make it difficult for your little one to fall back asleep once they’ve woken up! 

Learning new skills

Your little one is hitting SO many milestones in such a short period! Learning new words, climbing, running, jumping, and rapidly developing can create more distractions around bedtime.

Teething 

Teething is painful! They may be unable to fall asleep or woken up in the night from discomfort. There are many ways to help soothe your child if they’re teething. It can be disruptive to sleep training, but it won’t last forever!  

Illness

A cold or the flu can put a halt in your sleep training progress- but it won’t erase all of your hard work! Once your child has recovered, then you can resume sleep training and get back on track. 

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is normal for young children. There are many ways to help your toddler overcome their separation anxiety and develop a more secure attachment style. 

Nightmares

Nightmares or night terrors may be impacting your child’s sleep, either waking them in the night or creating feelings of anxiety around bedtime.  

Screentime

Blue light can impact your toddler’s circadian rhythm, making it much more difficult for them to fall asleep! 

Overtiredness

It may seem like overtiredness would actually help get your child to sleep, but it happens to be the opposite case! All of the energy that your little one is using during the day can end up making them overtired, especially if they’ve dropped a nap. 

Big life events

A big move, new sibling, new school, or any other big life change can come with feelings of anxiety for your little one that may impact their behavior and sleep habits.

Transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed

Between 18 months and 3 and a half years, the transition from a crib to a toddler bed can bring on lots of overwhelming emotions for your toddler-especially if they’re not ready. Make sure that the timing feels right based on their unique needs, and that they’re ready for a toddler bed before making the transition. 

The 2-year sleep regression usually lasts for a few weeks. It’s a completely normal milestone and isn’t cause for concern. However, if your little one is going through night terrors or intense nightmares, or you feel like something is off with their behavior, don’t hesitate to consult with a specialist who can help you get to the root of the issue. 

2-Year Sleep Regression Signs

There are several signs that your toddler may be going through the 2-year sleep regression. Here are some of the ways you can tell!  

  • Waking up throughout the night
  • Bedtime resistance 
  • Waking up earlier than normal
  • Expressing anxiety or fears 
  • Refusing to take a nap, crying at naptime, or taking shorter naps than usual 
  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying in bed

How To Fix The 2-Year-Old Sleep Regression

Maintain routine 

Sleep regressions can tend to make following a routine feel much more difficult. The important thing is to stay as consistent as possible so that when the sleep regression is over, there is still some normalcy. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry accredits consistent sleep routines to fewer sleep issues in children. Having a consistent nighttime routine helps to promote positive sleep habits and sleep hygiene, and equips your child for a lifetime of better sleep. 

Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed

Blue light is a big no-no when it comes to sleep! Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed to avoid a delayed onset of melatonin and overstimulation. Your toddler will have a much easier time winding down, falling asleep, and staying asleep. There are tons of bedtime activities that you can replace screen time with for better sleep patterns. 

Create an optimal sleeping environment

Make sure that their room is dark, calm, and quiet for the best sleep. If your little one is afraid of the dark, use a night light to help calm their fears. Use blackout curtains to help them stay asleep longer in the morning and try a white noise machine to add to their environment. 

Address their anxieties 

Toddlers have wild imaginations! They may have seen something scary on TV, or they may be afraid of separation or something that they imagined. Instill confidence in your toddler that you are always there for them even if you’re not in the room with them, and that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Fear spray (glitter and water) is one of my favorite tools to make them feel safe! There are so many other books and sleeping products that can help your little one sleep more soundly as well.

Give them a small snack

With the development of language, there’s a chance your little one has learned the phrase “I’m hungry!”. Incorporate a light snack into your bedtime routine to help them feel full and sleepy, and eliminate the snack requests that somehow always come up after they’re in bed. The routine of a small snack can even become something that helps your little one look forward to bedtime! 

Stay calm

Being patient during the 2-year sleep regression can be difficult. It may feel like your hard work in sleep training your child has gone to waste, and the struggles that come with it can be extremely frustrating. Stay calm, consistent, and remember that this is temporary. Try not to feed into the drama to keep the meltdowns at a minimum. If your little one wakes up in the middle of the night, calmly walk them back to bed and try not to make the situation feel like a huge deal. 

If your family is struggling to get quality sleep, please feel free to reach out! My toddler sleep package includes three phone consults, a customized sleep plan, two weeks of access to a private sleep log, a future look sleep plan, and a client-only Facebook group for continued support. I also have a Toddler Sleep Bootcamp if your toddler is having a hard time with naps, going to sleep, or overnight wakeups. I’m here to help your whole family sleep better! 

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