What are signs of an 18-month sleep regression? How long will it last? How do you help your toddler through it quickly? What else could be causing poor sleep at this age? Find out below!
As a parent of a toddler, you have experience with sleep regressions. You know they happen and you know they go away.
That doesn’t mean you do not get stressed when they pop up, though. Even with past experience, we still don’t see the future and worry great sleep could be gone forever.
It isn’t. You will get back there.
In this post, we will discuss what sleep regressions are, signs of the 18-month regression, other reasons for poor sleep at this age, how long this regression will ask, total sleep needs for an 18 month old, and tips to get through the regression.
- Sleep Regressions Reminder
- 18 Month Sleep Regression Signs
- Reasons for Sleep Problems at 18-Months Old
- Need to drop the morning nap
- Need to time the nap(s) better
- Stimulation levels
- Schedule disruptions
- Bedtime Issues
- Need better sleep routines
- Sickness or teething
- Separation anxiety
- New milestone
- How Long to Expect the 18-Month Sleep Regression to Last
- 18 Month Old Sleep Needs
- Tips to Get Through the Regression
- Related Posts
Sleep Regressions Reminder
Since your toddler is 18 months old, you are familiar with sleep regressions. You have been through many at this point.
Remember that a sleep regression is a time when your kiddo has a change in sleep patterns. This can mean disrupted naps or night sleep (or both).
Sleep regressions are caused by the person making huge leaps either mentally, physically, or emotionally. An 18 month old tends to do all 3 of these.
You might see your kiddo waking up when it isn’t time, struggling to fall asleep, refusing to even try to nap, or just being grumpy during the day.
A true sleep regression is something you basically have to ride out and wait to pass. Sometimes other sleep issues come up at a time when a sleep regression can happen. This makes it hard to determine if you should try to change things up or if you just need to patiently wait for the sleep regression to end.
18 Month Sleep Regression Signs
The 18-month-sleep regression is a pretty common one. There is a good chance your toddler will have sleep disruptions around 18 months old from either a regression or another cause, discussed below. Some common signs you have a regression going on are:
- Naps get shorter
- Nap refusal
- Clingyness or anxiety
- Night wakings
- Struggling to fall asleep
- Early wakings in the morning
Reasons for Sleep Problems at 18-Months Old
As mentioned above, you can have sleep problems that happen at the same time a sleep regression might. Not every baby or toddler has sleep issues when it is time for a sleep regression.
Sometimes you can have both a sleep regression and other sleep problems at the same time.
Here are some things that are worth checking if your 18 month old is not sleeping well so you can try to improve your toddler’s sleep.
Need to drop the morning nap
If you have not yet dropped the morning nap and moved to one nap a day, there is a good chance it is time to do so by 18 months old. This nap is typically dropped between 14-22 months old, but most are ready by 18-months-old.
If one of the naps (morning or afternoon) is going well but the other isn’t, that is a good sign your child is ready to drop a nap and the poor nap sleep isn’t just due to a toddler sleep regression.
Read more about this and how in Dropping the Morning Nap Full Guide.
18-month-olds absolutely need a nap every day, so do not think that it is time to drop naps all together.
Need to time the nap(s) better
You might not need to change up how many naps are happening each day. You might just need to change the timing of naps. A nap might need to move to be later in the day or earlier in the day.
If you recently moved to one nap a day, you might need to start it sooner or later. Do not be fooled by things going well for two weeks. Two weeks is the perfect length of time to develop a sleep deficit.
When you have a sleep deficit, your child is not getting enough sleep in the day and starts to sleep poorly because of it.
When you first moved to one nap a day, you probably needed the nap to start a little earlier. You always want the one nap a day to start after lunch time. If you are doing one nap a day at 10:30 AM, you need to consider your kiddo a 2 nap a day toddler still.
If you have typically eaten lunch at noon but need to move it to 11:30 AM while your toddler adjusts, that is fine.
But after a while, your toddler will be able to handle a larger wake window. Once you are settled into one nap a day, it should be around 6 hours from the time your toddler woke up for the day.
A toddler can still become overstimulated and struggle sleeping. This can be especially true during the time the toddler is moving to one nap a day. There is less sleep happening and fewer breaks from the world.
Overstimulation disrupts sleep at any age.
A toddler can also be understimulated. If your toddler does not move around enough during the day and/or get pushed mentally, he will struggle sleeping.
Solve this by going for a walk, getting out of the house sometimes, and keeping toys age-appropriate.
As our kids get older, we can tend to keep them out away from home longer and disrupt their sleep because of it. We might take advantage of increased flexibility and skip naps or go for a later bedtime. These things can hurt sleep.
Consistency in your schedule is still important even with a toddler. You can have more flexibility than you did with a newborn, but it can’t be limitless. You still need to be mindful and respectful of your toddler’s sleep needs.
Be aware of your disruptions and try to limit how often you have disruptions. You also want to make sure the disruptions are not too close to each other. So if you miss nap for church every Sunday, do not plan a playdate for Monday over the nap.
Big changes will affect sleep, so if you have recently moved, had a baby, or even just dropped a nap, you can expect some nap disruptions and/or nighttime awakenings.
Your toddler might not be sleeping well because of bedtime issues.
When you move to one nap a day, you might need to change when bedtime is, even if just for 2-4 weeks while your child adjusts to this one nap a day schedule.
You might need to move bedtime up.
If you did move bedtime up when you moved to on nap a day, you might now need to move it back to the normal time.
Or if you are still on two naps, you might need to move bedtime back because the two naps are a bit more sleep than your toddler needs each day.
Need better sleep routines
You might also just need better sleep routines. You might need to shorten them or lengthen them. You might need to add a bedtime story. You might need to make things more soothing and calming to get your toddler able to transition from the excitement of the day to time to sleep and calm your toddler.
Remember your nap routine and bedtime routine do not have to be the exact same as each other. Do what works for each time period.
Sickness or teething
It is hard to sleep when you have discomfort.
Once I have a baby or toddler who typically sleeps well, if they suddenly have sleep problems, the first thing I check is pain or sickness. An ear infection is a big sleep disrupter for toddlers.
18 months old is also a big time for some major teeth. Your toddler might be getting canines in or the first molars. Either way, those are typically painful teeth, and even children who have not struggled with teething pain yet can be very disrupted. These teeth often lead to toddler sleep problems. If your toddler is teething, that could explain your nap time issues or night wakings.
Nightmares can happen even in babies, so they definitely can be a consideration for your toddler. Night terrors do not start until around age 3, so at the 18-month mark, if you suspect one or the other, you can feel confident it would be nightmares.
18 months old can be a common age for separation anxiety to pop up. If you have lingering separation anxiety from earlier ages, that could contribute to sleep issues at this age. Your toddler could have other worries, though.
There can be some anxiety if your toddler is battling internally between wanting more independence but also wanting the security of parents. You might be able to help this by giving your toddler a stuffed animal or lovey for bed.
Having new skills disrupt naps or sleep is a behavior you are well used to by now. An 18 month old can be working on any number of fine motor or gross motor skills. You could also be facing speech and language explosions. The crib is still a great place for your kiddo to practice these new skills.
A toddler this age is starting to become more independent and make their own decisions. Kids this age start to better understand cause and effect.
How Long to Expect the 18-Month Sleep Regression to Last
This regression is typically about 1-2 weeks long. If your toddler is waking just because of a regression, you should be back on track in 1-2 weeks. Just like with other regressions, this one will not ruin all progress made to this point.
18 Month Old Sleep Needs
An 18 month old should be doing the following each day:
- 1-2 naps each day
- Naps range from 1.5-3 hours long. If one nap a day, closer to 3 hours
- 10-12 hours of sleep at night
- Total daytime sleep will range from 12-15 hours long
Tips to Get Through the Regression
Remember regressions typically accompany major progress in skills. These include mental, emotional, and physical skills. If you notice your toddler working on specific new skills, give time to practice those during the day.
If your toddler is facing worries or concerns, address those during the day.
Help your toddler have practice time to get the new skills mastered so they can stop disrupting sleep.
Keep a solid and consistent schedule. Be really consistent with morning wake up times, nap time, and bedtime. Keep a solid sleep routine.
Be active in the day and give your toddler activities that challenge her.
Avoid starting new habits you do not want to continue long-term.
As with any sleep regression, the 18 month regression requires patience and perseverance. Do not give into tantrums–sleep is still important. Keeping consistency will help you both get through this challenging time.
- Dropping the Morning Nap Transition Time
- Overstimulation in Toddlers: What To Do
- The Best Toys for 18 Month Olds