How To Deal with the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression

How to help your toddler through the 2 year sleep regression. Keep your little one sleeping well at night and napping well in the day.

2 year old in her toddler bed

You may have thought sleep regressions would be behind you as you entered toddler-land. You have worked your child’s entire life on having consistent and healthy naps and that works has paid off.

You have survived wonder weeks and short naps. You have navigated several naps being dropped over the last couple of years.

You are a pro.

Enter the two year old sleep regression.

Suddenly sleep is not so perfect anymore for your little one.

Guess what. 2 year olds do not typically love to take a nap. They are not excited when it is bedtime.

Toddler sleep can be hard!

Your little one just wants to play. He doesn’t want to stop to go sleep in his toddler bed for a couple of hours. That sounds horrible!

There is an excellent chance your toddler will protest this attempt at sleep. Stay strong!

There are many reasons your 2 year old’s sleep is not fantastic. Let’s talk about.

How to handle the 2 year old sleep regression

First, you might be wondering what is a sleep regression.

A sleep regression is when your child suddenly stops sleeping well. There can be good reasons for regressions, and there are common ages for regressions that have no explanation or cause.

Sometimes treating the reasons for the poor sleep can help bring you back to the sleep patterns you are used to.

A toddler sleep regression is no different.

Here are some things to do and thing to not do when your child is having the 2-year-old sleep regression.

>>>Read: Sleep Regression: Causes, Ages, and What to Do

Do Not Drop the Nap

I have written on what to do when your toddler refuses to take a nap. My number one plea with you is do not drop it.

Remember there is a regression right now.

Things can go back to good with some tweaks and sometimes just with some waiting it out.

Keep nap time.

A two year old who stops napping will be a three year old who doesn’t nap. Hold strong to the nap.

I cannot even tell you how many people have made this comment to me over the years:

“You are SO LUCKY your three year old still takes a nap! Mine all refused at age two.”

Guess what? Many of my children didn’t want to nap as a 2 year old, either. They also wanted to stay up and play.

I had to fight the little cutie to get to nap time. It was not fun. It would have been easier in the moment to throw my hands in the air and allow that little one to just stay up.

But I did not. I stuck with it. I dealt with the grumpy, crying toddler and nap time every day and still headed to that room to tuck him and her in for a nice nap.

Those two year olds who did not want to nap at age two made it through. They still napped at age three (not every day, but most days). They stopped napping at age four but moved to rest time instead.

It was absolutely worth the grumpiness of a two year old.

See What to Do When Your Toddler Refuses to Take a Nap for help.

Do Analyze Wake Time Length

Your toddler might simply need a little longer awake time before nap starts. You learned baby sleep is sensitive. You know babies have very sensitive waketime lengths.

Toddlers can, too.

Your little one might need even just 5-10 minutes added to the day before the nap starts.

Your toddler also might just be sensitive to the timing of the nap. A toddler might need to be in bed in a ten minute window in order to actually nap that day (I had a toddler like that).

Pay attention to your toddler’s needs. I have a handy chart on waketime length for toddlers in this post: Optimal Waketime Lengths for Toddlers. Check out, also, my post on Timing Naps for Toddlers .

Do Consider Teething/Sickness

Your toddler might be having sleep troubles because of teeth coming in or because of sickness.

The first thing I check when a child stops sleeping well is sickness and pain.

An ear infection can cause sleep problems. A simple cold can lead to poor sleep. I always consider pain or sickness before making a plan of action when sleep issues pop up.

Two year molars are painful for many toddlers! Even kiddos who did not struggle with pain from other teeth really struggle with those molars. Your 2 year old might be struggling to sleep because of the pain associated with new teeth.

If your toddler is waking up because of pain or sickness, nothing you change about the schedule is going to help your toddler sleep well. You need to address and ease the symptoms.

Do Consider Life Changes

Did anything change in your child’s life recently?

Your toddler might be moving into a new bed, getting a new sibling, or starting a new activity.

If your cute 24 month old recently moved to a big kid bed, she might be feeling a little anxious about sleeping in that big bed and might need some time to adjust. 

Your toddler might have moved to a new room to prepare for a new baby.

Two year olds are often close to welcoming a new sibling to the home (or recently have). This brings a lot of changes to the day to day routine and can impact sleep.

>>>Read: Problem Solving Tip: What Has Changed?

If your toddler is potty training, this can cause a lot of sleep regression.

Potty training introduces a lot of new freedoms to your kiddo. Your toddler might be excited to now be able to get out of bed any time to go potty. This can lead to him not falling asleep at nap time. It also provides some fantastic stall tactics your child can use when it is time to sleep.

Potty training can also bring on a lot stress or pressure. Your toddler might be nervous to have an accident and is going potty regularly to avoid an accident.

These things can all cause sleep regressions.

Sometimes these life changes, or even just age, can lead to some anxiety. Your child might have some separation anxiety happening. Get some tips for helping with this in this post: How to Manage Separation Anxiety in Babies.

Do Have Rules and Consistency

Stay consistent with sleep and with your sleep rules.

Your toddler might start testing getting out of bed without permission. Respond in a way to set the stage for good sleep habits long-term.

Your 2-year-old is testing boundaries, which is normal. You want to respond to this testing in a way that will lead to sleep schedule success down the road.

Have bedtime at the same time each night. Have naps at the same time each day. Expect sleep to be a thing in your toddler’s life.

Make sure you have a solid bedtime routine. A bedtime routine is still important for your child just like it was when she was a baby. Think about your routine. If things are not super consistent, make a consistent plan for both pre-naps and before bedtime. Stick to it.

Do Not Respond to Tantrums

You want to address needs, but you do not want to give in to the tantrum. Toddler tantrums are part of life when you have a toddler. Just because your toddler does not want to sleep does not mean he does not need to sleep.

>>>Read: What to Do When Your Toddler Cries at Nap Time

2 year sleep regression

Do Be Aware of the Environment

Is it too hot? Is it too cold? Is the sun breaking through the window? Does your toddler need a blanket? Does your toddler need a pillow? Is your child comfortable sleeping?

The sun can really negatively impact sleep for a toddler. The sun is a signal that life is supposed to be moving. A toddler will see that morning sun coming through the window and want to jump up and play.

I still remember one summer night when my 2.5 year old son was sick in the night. We live in a location where the sun rises very early in the summer. 5 AM meant fully light outside.

I furiously worked to clean everything up and remake his bed so he could go back to sleep before the sunrise.

I didn’t make it.

The sun came up and he was convinced it was time to get up for the day.

Consider if you need some black out curtains or need to dress your child differently for nighttime sleep or even daytime sleep. Your kiddo might need a blanket and/or a pillow to sleep more comfortably.

Do Consider Nighttime Fears

Your toddler might be waking up after he falls asleep because of a nightmare or night terror. Night wakings that happen after falling asleep are often caused by nightmares or night terrors. Your little one might be afraid of monsters.

If this waking at night becomes a pattern, fear of these nightmares can make it so your toddler avoids sleep.

There is good news. You can help your child through nightmares and night terrors. There are sometimes very simple things you can do to help avoid these altogether. Read my post on Nightmares vs. Night Terrors: How to Help Your Child Through Each for more on that.

Your child might do well with a stuffed animal or a lovey if he hasn’t slept with one yet. It can be a source of comfort and a friend.

You might also find your toddler has a fear of the dark. If this is the case, you might want to use night lights to help with that fear.

People do sleep best with the room dark, so I wouldn’t move to night lights forever, but they can be a good option a this point in time. Keep it temporary.

Do Look at Sleep Totals

Your 2 year old might need to change the total hours of sleep he is getting in the day.

Do not go drastic in any changes you make here. 10 minutes can make the difference.

Perhaps sleep at night needs to change. Your toddler might need bedtime moved back even just 10-30 minutes.

The afternoon nap might need to be shortened a bit instead. Again, even just moving nap back to start 10-30 minutes can be the trick. If your toddler falls asleep for nap fine but struggles at night and has some bedtime resistance, you might wake your 2 year old up a little earlier from nap.

Do Make Sure Your Child Gets Enough Stimulation

Physical and mental stimulation are both vital for good sleep. Both night sleep and the daytime nap can be negatively affected if your child does not move around enough.

Your little one also needs to be learning and challenged mentally.

If your child doesn’t get enough mental or physical activity, then naptime or bedtime are excellent times to try to make that up.

Remember Regressions

Remember what a sleep regression is like from your baby’s first year? You had four month sleep issues. You faced sleep regressions seemingly every other month. Remember how baby did sleep well, and seemingly for no good reason?

If this poor sleep your toddler is facing right now is a literal regression, there is nothing you can do but wait it out. Sometimes you have to be patient and just wait for your 2 year old to grow out of this regression.

Your little one might be hitting some developmental milestones and feel excited about those and want to practice, even if it is just mentally. Just as a baby likes to practice crawling in the crib, a toddler enjoys singing the ABCs or identifying colors.

If you did sleep training as a baby, then your child will go back to sleeping well once the whole regression passes. If you are consistent with your sleep routines and rules, then your toddler should get back to sleeping well in 1-3 weeks.

Have twins? Read up on this toddler sleep problem with twins to help your little ones here.


When your two year old is not sleeping well, consider the list of possible factors listed above. The poor sleep might be something you can impact and improve with a little tweak.

In the end, it might just be a regression that you need to wait out. Wait it out and continue on the sleep track with your toddler. While your two year old probably won’t sleep every day consistently ever again, a daily nap is still super important in your toddler’s daily routine.

Sleep regressions happen with 2 year olds just as they did babies. The 2 year old sleep regression is a real thing, and your kiddo might just need time to get through it just like the other regressions in life.

Related Posts

Two Year Old Sleep Regression | Toddler Sleep | naps | #toddlersleep

This post originally appeared on this blog November 2017

10 thoughts on “How To Deal with the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression”

  1. My son is almost 2 and seems to be going through a regression but will absolutely not nap unless it’s in the car. He hasn’t slept in the car since he was 7 months old. He fights and screams during nap time and says no no no. He will scream for an hour if we let him. We are absolutely lost. And now he’s waking up around 5 am and won’t go back to sleep and also resisting bed time. The first two weeks he still slept 7-7 but now he’s up at 5 am. We shifted bed time to compensate and now he’s fighting that too. We’ve tried leaving right away and letting him cry it out. my husband stays in the room at night for bed time and now he’s sleeping at night, this isn’t working for naps. We’ve tried to keep his routine as consistent as possible, only making adjustments for naps. We’ve tried tiring him out, having quiet time before bed time. and now my once good eater is refusing everything. affecting all of the relationships in my house. I feel like I don’t even know my own child anymore.

    • This sounds to me like there might be a sickness going on. Since his behavior is different all around, I would schedule an appointment to see the doctor. I would wonder if he has an ear infection. If he checks out and is all healthy, let me know and we can brainstorm some other ideas.

  2. Hi. My little one will be 2 in DEC. He used to sleep 7pm-7am. He usually has a 1hour/1.5hrs nap between 12:30-2pm. Over the last weeks he started waking at 5am. Now he’s waking in the middle of the night, 2.30am today and is crying for mommy. And since yesterday, he isn’t even falling asleep anymore without crying?
    This seems get worse every day. Is this the regression? During these cries/screaming at falling asleep and the wakings in the middle of the night – so far I’ve gone in once to say i’m here and comfort him a bit and then I left him to cry it out.

  3. My two year old used to sleep like a champ. 7-7 with a 1.5-2 hour nap in the middle. He just turned two a few weeks ago. Since then, he refuses to sleep; kicking and screaming. I’m assuming it’s the two sleep regression but how do I remedy this? We are keeping the nap, but it takes 30 minutes to an hour of book reading, back rubbing, letting him cry it out as he pounds on the door (in no particular order with repeated variations in between) to get him to go to sleep. Are there recommendations on what to do in these situations? We have just pushed his bedtime out to 7:30 in hopes that staying away an extra half will help but it’s been awful. Any help would be amazing.

    • If it is regression, the best thing to do is just “come what may and love it” with the nap. Put him down, but don’t try to force the nap. Put him in his room and leave and decide to not stress out if he doesn’t sleep. If he does great. If not, that is fine. Don’t go in and try to get him to sleep–that will lead to further problems.

  4. My son is just shy of 2yrs old and this week began not napping. We’ve not changed his bed, room or schedule, I’m due with our third in June. I’ve been leaving him in his bed to reinforce that it’s still time to nap/rest, and after rolling around for about 2 hours, sometimes he’ll eventually go to sleep. When that happens, how long should I let him sleep? I want him to get some nap, and I don’t want his nap to interfere too much with bedtime. Any recommendations on how to handle this?

    • Let him sleep a little later. I wouldn’t do more than an hour later than usual. Take notes on how he responds to different lengths. Over time, you will see what works and what doesn’t.

  5. My daughter used to be a great nap and nighttime sleeper.

    Now for nap time she just runs in circles in her PNP amped to the max, screaming MOMMY PUPPY MOMMY or whatever, until I go get her when her nap would usually end.

    We were doing 7am DWT 12:00-2:30 nap 7pm bed. We tried pushing her bedtime back but that led to her being overtired and taking an hour to fall asleep for bed and so we went back to 7pm bedtime.

    I’ve tried pushing the nap forward and pushing it backward. I’ve tried extra exercise, food and even Tylenol thinking it was that last molar coming in.

    Nothing helps.

    I’m pregnant, recovering from pneumonia Covid, and just don’t know what to do, other than try to sleep myself for a nap but can’t when I can hear her screaming and running around in her PNP.

    Unfortunately we live with my in-laws and she sleeps under the stairs in a PNP. She doesn’t have a room, but the curtains help keep the room dark.

    I am at a loss. Is this something that we just keep doing even if she never sleeps again? Just put her in there and leave for 2 hours until nap time is over? I’ll never be convinced 2 is the time to stop napping. She’s always been a high need sleeper and the hot mess we get each night at 6 now shows how much she needed that nap.

    When she doesn’t nap we end up putting her down at 6:30 and she wakes around 6:30-7.

    • I would aim for more of a 1 PM nap start time with a 2 year old waking at 7 AM. So I would try nap at 12:15, then 12:30, then 12:45, then 1:00, and maybe 1:15. See if there is a time that helps.

      Other than that, yes you just ride this out. She will go back to sleeping and the regression is just normal.

      I am sorry things are so rough for you right now! You must be exhausted.


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