Read this to know what to do when you face 2 year old sleep problems. Know common reasons for poor toddler sleep and how to solve them!
A month after Brayden turned two, he started taking a long time to go to sleep at night. At the time, I attributed it to several factors. One is that a month after he turned two, it is the longest day of the year where we live. The sun goes down quite late. As I have mentioned, Brayden is a sun riser. I figured it was hard for him to go to sleep since the sun was still up.
Another possible factor for his toddler sleep problems was that he had a new baby sister. New babies often bring some disruption to days for little ones.
Another possible factor was that he was in a new room and his bed was right by the window, which looked out onto the road. Brayden had always loved to watch cars go by.
When Brayden went to bed, he didn’t cry or put up any sort of fuss about going to sleep. He didn’t get out of bed. He just sat in his window and talked to himself.
As time went on and I started this blog, I often had moms post questions about their two year old suddenly taking a long time to go to sleep at night. After several of these questions, I started to wonder if there is something about a two year old that makes it hard for them to sleep. I wondered if Brayden’s sleep problems as a two year old were not caused by the sun, the baby, or the new room, but just from being a toddler.
I wondered what would happen with Kaitlyn.
Kaitlyn was always has a great sleeper. Kaitlyn loves to sleep. She didn’t ever mind naptime or bedtime.
Despite this, Kaitlyn also started taking a long time to fall asleep after she turned two.
Kaitlyn had several of the same factors at age two that Brayden did at age two. She had a new sister. She had a new bed. It was the longest time of the year again. She was in the same room, however, and didn’t have a window to peer out of from her bed.
But Kaitlyn was not one who needed anything to entertain her; she had a very vivid imagination even as a two year old.
One day I was talking with a friend about McKenna on an unrelated topic. My friend told me her pediatrician says children need to learn to fall asleep about five times in their lives. She couldn’t remember the ages exactly. She knew one was at two months. One was at one year. One was at two years. She thought another was at 6 months and at 18 months. Then she couldn’t remember the other.
These ages all correlate with common sleep regressions.
As a two year old, like Brayden, Kaitlyn did not cry and did not protest going to bed at all. She was really quiet, but sometimes as I went to get McKenna for her dreamfeed, I could hear Kaitlyn singing in her room!
Two year old sleep problems are common and typical. While it is normal, it doesn’t mean parents are happy about it. After they have gone to all of that trouble to do sleep training, they do not want sleep problems at age two!
So what are the problems people face with two year olds? And of course, the ultimate question is, what do you do about each?
- The Toddler Takes a Long Time to Fall Asleep at Night
- Leave Her Be
- Go Stop the Playing
- Tweak Bedtime
- Combo of all Tips
- Your Toddler is Having Nightmares or Night Terrors
- Your Toddler is in a New Bed
- Your Toddler Was Recently Potty Trained
- Your 2 Year Old is Overly Tired
- Your Toddler is Processing the Day
- Your Toddler is Teething
- Your Toddler is Simply Having the Two Year Sleep Regression
- Related Posts
The Toddler Takes a Long Time to Fall Asleep at Night
There are a few ways to go about it, and your answer is going to depend on your child’s personality. By this point, you know your child well. You know if your child responds well to you re-entering the room or not. Here are some options for this situation:
Leave Her Be
One option is to just wait this period out. It doesn’t last forever. This really is something your two year old will outgrow. As you talk to moms with multiple children, you will find most are content to put their child to bed and not stress about what time the child actually falls asleep.
Go Stop the Playing
She might benefit from you going in and telling her to go to sleep. You want to be careful with this, though. She might start to figure if she stays up, she gets extra visits from Mom. These visits will likely include extra kisses and hugs, perhaps even one more song. So she might start fighting sleep in order to get some more face time with her parents. Also, if this is an issue of learning to fall asleep again, then your visit will disrupt the learning process.
I think it is possible that many two year olds are going to bed a little too late. Going to bed too late can lead to it taking time for a person to fall asleep. I have seen that even with myself. Be sure bedtime isn’t later than your child needs it to be. Read Tips for Finding Your Child’s Ideal Bedtime for help with this. As a two year old, your toddler might need a slightly different bedtime than she had as a one year old.
Also, be sure you are keeping bedtime consistent. Do not have a 7 PM bedtime one night and an 8 PM bedtime another night. Consistency is so key for bedtime.
Combo of all Tips
My guess is that most families would benefit from a combo of these suggestions. Fix bedtime. For the most part leave her be. If she is getting rowdy or getting out of bed, go in and gently tell her to go back to bed, but try to be unemotional about it. Just be firm and matter of fact. Don’t be mad and don’t be extra sweet and lovey. Watch the results of you going in closely. If it seems she is staying up even more, don’t go in.
In the end, don’t stress out about this. Over some time, she will be back to going to sleep soon after her head hits the pillow.
Your Toddler is Having Nightmares or Night Terrors
It might be that your two year old is having sleep difficulties because he is having nightmares or night terrors. This will be obvious if your toddler is waking at night and crying out. For many children who have nightmares, going to sleep seems scary because scary dreams come that the toddler can’t control. So they fight sleep.
The irony is that going to sleep late makes nightmares more likely to happen.
If your little one is having nightmares, be sure to read my post: Nightmares vs. Night Terrors: How to Help Your Child Through Each.
Your Toddler is in a New Bed
If your toddler recently moved to a toddler bed or a twin bed out of the crib, he might not sleep as well at first. Sleeping in a different bed takes some time to get used to. Being in a new bed is novel and exciting. There is also a lot of new-found freedom in a bed without sides restricting them.
This can be solved with time as your toddler gets used to being in a bed instead of a crib. If your toddler absolutely cannot handle this freedom, there is no shame in moving your toddler back into the crib until he can handle being in a bed and staying in the bed.
Your Toddler Was Recently Potty Trained
If your toddler was recently potty trained, that could be leading to sleep problems. This could be from your toddler being concerned about wetting the bed and getting out of bed to use the potty. It could be that your toddler genuinely needs to use the potty, but this still disrupts sleep. It could also be that since your toddler is allowed to get out of bed to use the potty now, your toddler will want to exercise that freedom as much as possible.
This can all be true even if diapers are worn at night but not naps. If your toddler’s naps are disrupted from the potty training, that can negatively impact night sleep since your toddler will be overly tired.
Your 2 Year Old is Overly Tired
If your toddler is not napping and/or having too much stimulation in the day, night sleep will suffer. Sleep begets sleep and that is true for all humans no matter their age.
A two year old is not ready to drop naps altogether. Your Two year old will take a nap less often; naps won’t happen every day. But hold on to nap time. It is very common for toddlers to refuse to nap, but hold on to it! Read What To Do When Your Toddler Refuses to Take a Nap for more.
Also, be sure you are timing that one nap of the day correctly for your nap. See my post on Timing Naps for Toddlers for help getting that toddler nap time correct.
Your Toddler is Processing the Day
Toddlers are very curious people. One of my favorite things about two year olds is how much they take in. They are little scientists who fully appreciate and marvel at every leaf that blows in the wind and every cloud that passes by in the sky. They will often sit in their beds when they have down time and just process that information overload. They take in every detail and need some time to sort that all out.
For this reason, some Independent Playtime each day can really help your toddler out with night sleep. Having another point in the day to process information is helpful. The same is true for nap time. If bedtime is the first time in the day your toddler is forced to kind of sit still and process, it will be a much longer processing process.
Your Toddler is Teething
Two year old molars are no joke. If your toddler is teething, there might be too much pain or discomfort to be able to slip off into sleep quickly. If this is the case, reach in to your favorite teething remedies and help your toddler out before bedtime.
Your Toddler is Simply Having the Two Year Sleep Regression
There is a two year old sleep regression. Your toddler might simply be having that. This can cause poor naps, poor night sleep, and night wakings. If you suspect a two year old sleep regression, be sure to see my post Two Year Old Sleep Regression.
- What To Do When Your Toddler Cries at Nap Time
- 10 Truths About Parenting a Toddler
- When Do Children Stop Napping And What To Do Instead
- How To Solve Sleep Problems for Toddlers and Preschoolers
- Optimal Waketime Lengths for Toddlers
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