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.
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
- Do Not Drop the Nap
- Do Analyze Wake Time Length
- Do Consider Teething/Sickness
- Do Consider Life Changes
- Do Have Rules and Consistency
- Do Not Respond to Tantrums
- Do Be Aware of the Environment
- Do Consider Nighttime Fears
- Do Look at Sleep Totals
- Do Make Sure Your Child Gets Enough Stimulation
- Remember Regressions
- Related Posts
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
- How To Fill Toddler’s Time When Transitioning to One Nap
- What To Do When Your Toddler/Child is Getting Out of Bed
- 2 Year Old Sleep Problems
- What to Do When Your Toddler Refuses to Take a Nap
- 2 Year Old Sleep Problems – How To Solve Them!
This post originally appeared on this blog November 2017