While this might not make you feel any better in the moment, remember that this is a common challenge many parents face. Sleep regressions are normal for 2 year old children.
At this age, toddlers are becoming more aware of their surroundings and experiencing increased developmental changes, which can all impact toddler sleep.
In this post, we’ll explore the causes of this sleep regression, how to recognize the signs, and then take a look at some practical tips to manage it.
When Does The 2 Year Sleep Regression Start?
The two-year sleep regression doesn’t have a definitive start date, though most toddlers experience a sudden disruption in their sleep between 2 and 2.5 years of age. For some, it may even start a little earlier, depending on the cause.
How Long Does The 2 Year Sleep Regression Last?
The 2 year sleep regression can last from a few days to a few weeks before they return to a more regular sleep routine.
Recognizing Signs of Sleep Regression
Before we talk about the causes and steps to help your little one, it’s crucial to recognize the signs of sleep regression.
As with all sleep regressions, it’s important to recognize this as developmentally normal and your child will move past it in time.
These are the most common signs of a 24 month sleep regression:
If your toddler has gone from sleeping well throughout the night to more frequent night waking, this is a common sign of the 2-year-old sleep regression. It’s also common for them to take longer to settle down at bedtime or naptime.
They may start resisting bedtime by requesting additional items, such as an extra story or a glass of water.
To address this issue, try to establish a consistent bedtime routine and provide frequent but brief check-ins to comfort your child. This can help them feel secure and supported, making it easier for them to fall back asleep.
Nap struggles during the 2-year-old sleep regression can manifest as reluctance to nap, taking longer to fall asleep, premature awakening, and shortened naps. In some cases, your toddler may even go on a nap strike, refusing to nap altogether.
To address these issues, evaluate your child’s sleep needs and adjust their nap routine and schedule accordingly. Consistency is key here, so make sure to stick to a routine and provide opportunities for them to nap, even if they resist.
Bedtime resistance is another sign of the 2-year-old sleep regression, where your child has difficulty calming down at bedtime, refuses to nap, experiences night awakenings, or displays restlessness and outbursts.
To manage bedtime resistance, consider the strategies we’ll explore in the following sections, such as setting boundaries, offering choices, and fostering a sense of security. These approaches can help your child feel more in control and at ease during bedtime, making it easier for them to settle down and sleep.
What Causes The 2 Year Old Sleep Regression?
There are several possible causes of a 2 year sleep regression.
It’s important to remember that each child is unique, and your toddler’s sleep could be impacted by one or more of these at this stage of their development.
These are the most common causes:
At this age, toddlers are experiencing a growth spurt in their cognitive and motor skills development.
Their newly acquired skills and heightened curiosity make them want to explore the world, leading to a phenomenon known as FOMO (fear of missing out). This can result in them resisting sleep, even when they are tired.
As your child develops, their sleep needs also change.
As they get older, they need less sleep and will be able to stay awake for longer periods of time.
When this happens, it may be time to drop a daytime nap if they still take them. If they no longer have a daytime sleep, they may need a later bedtime at night. Continuing with the same bedtime when they need less sleep than in the past can lead to battles to get them to go to bed and fall asleep, or early morning waking.
Life transitions, such as starting nursery school, relocating to a new residence, potty training, or the introduction of a new sibling, can have a significant impact on a toddler’s sleep. These changes can cause a disruption in their routine, making it more difficult for them to fall and stay asleep.
During these transitions, it’s crucial to be patient and understanding with your child. Try to avoid introducing too many changes at once, and instead, accommodate your toddler’s pace. Providing extra comfort and support during these times can help your child adjust to the new situation and ease any sleep disruptions.
At around 2 years of age, children often start to experience separation anxiety when their parents or carers aren’t present. As a result, your toddler may become more clingy and have a hard time falling asleep without your presence. This is a common cause of sleep regressions at this age.
If your toddler is experiencing separation anxiety, consider introducing a night light or a comfort object, such as a stuffed animal or lovey. Additionally, spending quality time with your child during the day can provide reassurance and support, helping them manage any difficult emotions that may arise during the night.
As your child’s imagination grows, it often leads to a rise in fears, particularly at night. These fears then lead to newfound sleep difficulties.
To help your child overcome these fears, consider introducing a night light or a comfort object, such as a stuffed animal or lovey.
Testing Boundaries and Seeking New Levels of Independence
Testing limits and boundaries is a very normal part of a child’s development. Bedtimes are no exception to that. Once they realise that there might be more fun to be had by staying awake, you may find your little one fighting bedtime even when they’re tired.
In the quest for independence, you might find them doing things like getting out of bed to get water, removing blankets and sheets, or removing pyjamas.
Tips for Managing the 2-Year-Old Sleep Regression
Armed with the knowledge of the causes and signs of the 2 year sleep regression, it’s time to discuss practical tips for managing it. The key strategies include maintaining consistency in routines, being flexible and patient, and creating a comforting sleep environment.
By implementing these strategies, you can help your child navigate this challenging phase and get back to their regular sleep patterns. Let’s delve deeper into each of these tips and how they can be applied to your child’s unique situation.
Consistency in routines
Consistency in routines is crucial for 2-year-olds, as it provides them with a sense of security and stability. This can help them establish good sleep habits and foster the development of self-confidence, curiosity, social skills, self-control, and communication skills.
To maintain a consistent routine, ensure your child has regular bedtimes and wake times, and engage in a soothing bedtime routine that includes activities such as reading, singing, or cuddling. This can help signal to your child that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
Flexibility and patience
Being flexible and patient with your child during the 2 year sleep regression is essential, as it can help them develop emotional regulation and adaptability.
To practice flexibility and patience, remember to take deep breaths, count to 10, or take a brief break from the situation when you feel overwhelmed. Remain open to alternative solutions and be willing to meet your child halfway when addressing their sleep issues.
Creating a comforting sleep environment
Creating a comforting sleep environment for your child can help ease their nighttime fears and separation anxiety, making it easier for them to fall asleep.
To achieve this, consider implementing a calming bedtime routine, providing a comfort object like a stuffed animal or lovey, and using a night light (yellow light, not white) if your child is afraid of the dark.
Additionally, spending quality time with your child during the day can provide reassurance and support, helping them manage any difficult emotions that may arise during the night. By creating a calming and secure sleep space, you can help your child get better sleep and hopefully move past this sleep regression.
Adjusting Sleep Schedules
On average, toddlers aged between 1-2 years need 11-14 hours of sleep per day to remain healthy and develop properly, including one or two daytime naps.
As they approach 18 months old, you can expect them to transition to just one nap per day in the afternoon.
If your 2 year old is still napping more than once per day, or if their sleep schedule still allows for more than 12-14 hours of total sleep per day, it may need adjusting.
You could try shortening their daytime sleep, or allow for a later bedtime to achieve this.
To better understand how many naps to expect your little one to take each day, when they will likely drop naps, and how much total sleep they need each day based on their age, click here to download the free guide.
Addressing Nap Issues
Now that we’ve explored tips for managing the 2-year-old sleep regression, let’s address nap issues specifically. To tackle these challenges, it’s important to evaluate your child’s sleep needs, maintain a consistent nap routine, and adjust nap schedules as needed.
In the following sections, we’ll go into more detail on each of these strategies and how they can help your child overcome nap struggles during the sleep regression.
Evaluating sleep needs
The first step in addressing nap issues is evaluating your child’s sleep needs. A 2-year-old needs an average of 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day. Night sleep should be 10 to 12 hours, whereas 1.5 to 3 hours should be set aside for naps during the day.
To evaluate your child’s sleep needs, consider their age, activity level, and any changes in routine. By ensuring your child is getting enough sleep, you can help prevent overtiredness, which can exacerbate the 2-year-old sleep regression.
Maintaining a nap routine
Establishing and maintaining a consistent nap routine is essential for 2-year-olds, as it provides them with a sense of predictability and security. This can help them relax and fall asleep more easily during naptime.
To maintain a consistent nap routine, ensure your child has a set schedule for naps, ideally occurring 5-6 hours after they wake up in the morning. Additionally, include a calming wind-down period prior to naptime, such as reading a book or cuddling, to signal to your child that it’s time to rest.
Adjusting nap schedules
Lastly, adjusting your child’s nap schedule may be necessary to better suit their sleep needs during the 2-year-old sleep regression. Factors to consider when adjusting nap schedules include age-appropriate wake times, total sleep duration, and changes in routine.
Reducing your child’s nap duration by 15 to 30 minutes, for instance, may help them sleep better at night.
If you’d like a guide on what to expect in terms of the number of naps, how long your child should nap for, and their total daily sleep requirements, download a free copy of our ‘New Parent’s Guide to Naps’ here.
Remember to observe the consequences of altering nap schedules to ensure your child is getting enough sleep overall and not waking too early in the morning or during the night.
Handling Bedtime Struggles
In addition to addressing nap issues, managing bedtime struggles is also crucial during the 2-year-old sleep regression. Strategies for handling bedtime struggles include setting boundaries, offering choices, and fostering a sense of security.
Let’s explore each of these strategies in more detail and how they can help you and your child conquer bedtime battles during this challenging phase.
Establishing boundaries for your 2-year-old is essential in helping them understand what will happen next and reducing their use of delaying tactics. By focusing on behaviour, being direct and explicit, and speaking in a calm tone, you can set clear expectations for your child and maintain consistent discipline.
Setting boundaries can help your child feel more secure and in control during bedtime, making it easier for them to settle down and sleep. Remember to be consistent with your boundaries to ensure your child understands what is expected of them.
Providing choices to your 2-year-old during bedtime routines can help teach them how to express their feelings, have some control over their daily activities, and prevent power struggles. Choices can include selecting between different pyjamas or choosing which book to read before bed.
By offering choices, you can help your child feel more in control and at ease during bedtime, making it easier for them to settle down and sleep.
Fostering a sense of security
Creating a sense of security for your 2-year-old is key to helping them overcome bedtime struggles. Spend quality time with your child during the day, listen attentively to their needs, and express affection.
This can provide reassurance and support, helping them manage any difficult emotions that may arise during the night and ultimately, fostering a better night’s sleep.
The 2-year-old sleep regression is a challenging phase that many parents face. By understanding its causes, recognizing the signs, and implementing effective strategies such as consistency in routines, flexibility and patience, and creating a comforting sleep environment, you can help your child navigate through this phase and get back on track to a peaceful slumber. Remember, this regression is temporary, and with your support and understanding, your little one will soon be sleeping soundly once again.