Inside: Say goodbye to sleep struggles: Expert strategies for dealing with 2 Year Old Sleep Regression and bring back blissful nights for your family.
Has your sleep-loving little one suddenly started boycotting all things sleep? You might be in the thick of the 2 year old sleep regression.
This regression, often caused by a developmental leap, can show many signs of sleep disruptions such as trouble falling asleep, short naps, and multiple night wakings.
The key to dealing with (and surviving) the 2 year old sleep regression is to understand the signs and address the possible causes.
By understanding why this is happening and addressing what sleep disruptions are occurring, you can effectively work your way back to better sleep– building on the sleep foundation you have been using.
By doing this, you are creating a sleep solution that is completely tailored to YOUR child, not a generic “sleep regression solution” that may or may not work.
In the article, we’ll discuss:
- Sleep regression causes (emotional, physical, and environmental)
- Signs and symptoms of the sleep regression
- Tools for dealing with the regression
- Coping strategies for dealing with 2 year old sleep regression
- Step by Step answers to common sleep regression questions
I knew my little one was going through a sleep regression when her once wonderful sleep- through- the -night- for 10 hours turned into multiple night wakings, boycotted naps, and fussy days. This wasn’t normal for her, so I knew something was happening.
I went through months of bad sleeps because I just didn’t know where to begin, how to help her or what to do. But then I finally found a groove and began to actually meet her needs. And I’ll share with you everything I did so you don’t have to go through all of the crazy trial and error of dealing with 2 year old sleep regression.
Understanding 2 Year Old Sleep Regression
Witnessing your baby grow into a toddler is a beautiful miracle of life. As new skills present themselves, your toddler’s brain and body are readjusting to the world around them as they grow.
This specific period of increased growth (during the age of 2) can trigger sleep disruptions. These sleep disruptions can often be signs of a sleep regression. But because your child is experiencing a massive leap in developmental growth, this period of sleep disruptions can also be referred to as a sleep progression.
According to Medical News Today, “The term ‘sleep regression’ refers to a period of time when a baby or toddler experiences a shift in their sleeping pattern.”
Common Causes of 2 Year Old Sleep Regression
Common causes and triggers of sleep regression at this age can be classified into emotional triggers, physical triggers, and transitions:
Emotional triggers to can cause sleep disruptions
- Separation anxiety
- FOMO (fear of missing out on something as they are sleeping)
- Development of fears
- Increased independence
- Mental milestone development
Physical triggers that can cause sleep disruptions
- Sleep needs changing (needing a shifted bedtime or naptime routine)
- Physical milestone development
Sleep disruptions due to transitions
- Out of crib too early
- Potty training
- New sibling
- New house
- New home childcare provider/school/daycare
Signs and Symptoms
Remember, a sleep regression is an abrupt and noticeable decline in sleep patterns. This sudden and significant sleep decline usually is due to developmental growth.
But how will you be able to distinguish that your child is actually going through a regression? By identifying changes in behavioral and sleep-related activities.
But before we can look at signs of sleep regression, we first need to understand the importance of understanding your child’s daily patterns.
By knowing your child’s overall sleep patterns and how they act and react, you will easily be able to pinpoint when your child makes a sudden change in those behaviors.
- What do your child’s sleep cues look like?
- When do they normally get tired?
- About how long does it take for them to go to sleep? What is their favorite nap routine?
- What does their bedtime routine look like?
- Do they normally have night wakings?
- How long is the stretch of time they will sleep?
Knowing these specific patterns and routines that your child normally does will better help you not only understand the signs, and causes of the regression but also implement easy solutions to get your child back to better sleep.
Related Reading: How to Spot the Signs of the 2 year old sleep regression
Dealing with the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression- Signs
- Short naps or nap refusals (nap disturbance)
- Hour-long wakes (sometimes more) in the middle of the night
- Multiple night wakings (needs more support than usual)
- Is whining more or fussier during the day
- Sometimes more + frequent feedings or even fewer feedings
- Showing new skills (potty training, talking more, developing sentences, climbing out of bed, etc.)
- Overtiredness due to
- Night wakingsTrouble settlingEarly morning wakes
- Fighting naps
Need some help tracking your toddler’s sleep patterns and daily routine? Be sure to check out the You Got This Mama planner with over 60 pages of detailed trackers!
Preparing for Dealing with Sleep Regression
Here are the 2 most important tips for dealing with the 2 year old sleep regression:
Creating a Sleep-Friendly Environment
The first step to dealing with 2 year old sleep regression is to ensure your child is in a sleep friendly environment for *most* sleep. This doesn’t mean that every single nap needs to be in a crib/bed- because sometimes you’re little one is going to fall asleep in the car or stroller, etc.
But an important factor when putting your child to sleep is to analyze the sleep environment. Is it comfortable to sleep? Here are easy ways to create a comfortable sleep environment for your child.
1. Setting up the Bedroom
The first thing to do is optimize the room your child is sleeping in. Here are the 4 things to help you create an awesome sleep environment:
- Room temperature- being aware of the room being too hot or too cold
- Lighting – adding black-out curtains to block light in the morning hours/day sleep
- Noise levels for better sleep – utilizing a sound machine
- Selecting appropriate bedding and comfort objects- is there a lovely your child likes to sleep with or a particular blanket/pillow that brings comfort?
2. Establishing a Consistent Bedtime Routine
After the sleep environment is created, the next step is to establish a consistent bedtime routine.
A bedtime routine is simply a series of steps that you will do every day that will help your child wind down for bedtime. These steps will then become a *signal* to your child, that it is now time for sleep.
Having a routine will help send a signal to your child that sleep time is next. Babies and children love predictability- so having a consistent routine helps prepare them for naps and bedtime.
Related Reading: Easy Toddler Bedtime Routine
Easy Naptime Routine
Here is a simple nap routine:
- Prepare room for sleep (removing toys, getting bed ready, etc)
- If child is potty trained or training, have them use the potty before nap
- Is child is in diapers, bring her/him to the room they will be sleeping in to change diaper
- Use special words/phrases/songs to help prepare your child for sleep in a comforting way (singing a sleep song, etc)
- Close windows/shades and close black out curtains
- Change child into sleep clothes/pajamas
- Turn on sound machine
- Begin your child’s desired soothing techniques- sitting on chair to rock and sing for 2 minutes or reading a book together
- Place child in bed and turn off lights
- Sing/talk to child for a few minutes to further calm and soothe them
- Leave the room
Adjusting Nap Schedules
Once you have a comfortable sleep environment and a consistent bedtime routine, next is to focus on possible sleep shifts that your child may be experiencing.
Recognizing the Need for Adjustments
As your baby gets older, their sleep needs will shift. Including the number of naps per day, the amount of sleep time per day, length of naps, and length of nighttime sleep.
When your child is in the process of a sleep shift, they will show signs that their current sleep habits are no longer working.
Signs that indicate the need for changing your nap schedule could be:
- Taking long to settle for sleep
- Not showing tired cues at the time they normally do
- Fighting naps
- Skipping naps
The key to making sleep adjustments easy is to determine optimal nap lengths, timing, and wake windows for your child.
To know your toddler’s wake window, the amount of time they are awake before their next sleep time, is to know their tired cues. What signs does your child show when they are tired?
Every child is different, so while “sample” wake windows are helpful, no 2 children are the same so it’s important to know YOUR child’s individual tired cues.
When they begin to show tired cues, note the time and the cues so you can begin to track about what time of day they are showing these tired cues. This will help you see your child’s new, adjusted nap needs.
How can adjusting nap schedules help in dealing with sleep regression in 2-year-olds?
When your child is in a sleep regression, they can easily become overtired due to the lack of sleep. It’s very common for sleep regressions to be intensified when the child is not only sleeping at night, but also not sleeping during the day.
To deal with the sleep regression, focusing on naps can help!
Finding your child’s new adjusted nap schedule and meeting their new sleep needs can tremendously help.
Strategies for Nap Schedule Adjustments
These are the 2 important factors when you’re in the process of shifting daytime sleep:
- Making gradual changes in nap duration and timing
- Ensuring a balance between adequate daytime sleep and nighttime sleep
Bedtime routine modifications
Here are 3 ways to help promote better nighttime sleep through their bedtime routine:
- Adjust the bedtime routine to address the regression (remove activities that seem to be triggering bedtime woes)
- Incorporate relaxation techniques (such as a warm bath, calming activities, connection activities, essential oils, etc.) before bedtime
- Implement a consistent winding-down period to signal sleep time
Related Reading: The Best Toddler Bedtime Routine
Coping Strategies for Sleep Regression
The easiest way to deal with the 2 year old sleep regression is to pinpoint specific causes and signs that your child is experiencing.
By being aware of the sleep struggles, you can now target those issues individually instead of feeling overwhelmed by the sleep regression as a whole.
Sleep Time Soothing Techniques
Truth is, an adult rarely falls asleep when they are completely uncomfortable and stressed. And if they do need to sleep, they have ways of calming down or helping themselves fall asleep. A child is no different! Only they cannot help themselves fall asleep like an adult can- they don’t have the resources or knowledge yet to do so.
So that’s why having a comforting routine and comfortable environment is so important!
1. Comforting and Reassuring the Child
Here are some effective ways to provide comfort and reassurance to your toddler as they are experiencing sleep regression episodes:
- Utilize items that you know already bring comfort to your child
- Add things to your bedtime routine that bring comfort to your toddler- such as 10 minutes of their favorite show or a new book that they love
- Stay with your child a bit longer in their room to provide extra reassurance (add it to your bedtime routine)
- Add in comforting techniques before bedtime, such as singing a song while rocking, rubbing their backs while in bed, humming a song while you sit in their room, etc
Don’t stress about creating “bad sleep habits” or “using sleep props” during this time- the main goal is to offer your child comfort in a way that they understand and will receive it
The ultimate goal is to create a secure and nurturing environment for your little one during this time of change for them.
2. Implementing Relaxation Techniques
What are effective techniques for soothing a 2-year-old experiencing sleep regression?
Every child is different but all children have one thing in common- they crave their parent’s loving, soothing, comforting touch. Especially when they are going through a change that seems to be unsettling all of their “normal” sleep patterns.
To help them through this (and to help you survive the regression!), the key is to incorporate calming activities before bedtime. This will create a new, extra calming routine that your toddler will begin to anticipate- helping them sleep better.
A main cause of sleep regression can be separation anxiety and a new awareness that you are not in the room anymore. This feeling intensifies at night because your child now knows that are aren’t with them. To combat this anxiety, its important to add several methods of calming and soothing actions to your bedtime routine to help your child feel extra secure.
Here are some soothing techniques you can further explore and add to your bedtime routine:
- Massage with child-approved essential oils for relaxation
- Gentle music before bedtime
- A new sound of white noise
- Different books that portray bonds between parent and child
- Diffusing essential oils prior to bedtime
- An activity before bedtime between you and your toddler (such as cuddling and watching a movie, snuggling up on the bed and reading a book)
- Adding a soothing light to their room during the bedtime routine
3. Nutrition and Sleep
I know it’s not always talked about, but there is a direct connection between nutrition and sleep. Many foods and overall diets can affect sleep quality.
Ever ate something and then went to bed, only to find that your stomach feels upset? Or maybe you feel indigestion? Or heart burn?
The same can happen to a baby and toddler!
Sleep regressions aren’t “caused” by diet changes, but since diet impacts sleep quality, its important to note that changing some eating patterns can aid better sleep.
When my children go through a sleep hiccup, I always reevaluate what food they are eating during the day.
Here is what I do:
- Limit sugars and added sugars
- Eliminate any food coloring and food dyes (red 40, yellow 10, blue ____)
- Increase water (but limit drinking one hour before bed)
Transitioning from Crib to Bed
I often find that one of the sleep regression culprits at this age is moving your toddler from a crib to a bed too early. Transitioning them before developmentally ready can lead to a regression in sleep patterns.
Here’s what you can do before making this change:
- Assessing Readiness for the Transition- is your toddler showing signs of outgrowing their crib?
- Be aware of the signs that indicate the child is ready to transition from a crib to a bed
- Factors to consider when making the transition during sleep regression
Parental responsibilities and consistency
One of the most important effective strategies for dealing with the 2 year old sleep regression is parental consistency. Just as kids thrive on a daily routine, they also thrive on consistency when dealing with disruption. It’s important to be consistent with whatever methods you choose for dealing with this sleep regression.
Of course if you see that something is not working- pivot. But if you are trying a new strategy to meet your child’s sleep needs, stick with us until you see progress.
Here are 3 keys to consistency:
- Maintain consistent responses to sleep disturbances during the regression
- Choose strategies for responding to night wakings or bedtime resistance
- Ensure there is collaboration between parents or caregivers to ensure consistent approaches
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is sleep regression in 2-year-olds normal?
Yes! As your child grows, they will take developmental leaps. Sometimes during these leaps, other areas may “regress”. Sleep is usually affected by this regression
How long does sleep regression typically last in 2-year-olds?
This question is a bit of a double-edged sword.
On one hand, if your child hasn’t entered the 2 year sleep regression then you probably want it to be as far away as possible. On the other hand, if you’re in the sleep regression, then you definitely want it to end as soon as possible.
To be honest, there is no “start time and end time” to a sleep regression or sleep progression.
Can sleep regression be prevented?
No, a sleep regression cannot be “prevented”, as it is a part of developmental growth. But with these tips, it can be easier!
Are there any specific foods or supplements that can aid in managing sleep regression?
Sugary foods and food dyes definitely can be sleep disruptors- at any age! If you are interested in foods that can aid better sleep, be sure to talk to your child’s physician or practitioner.
My child’s practitioner recommended a small dose of lightly steeped chamomile tea for my toddler, as well as warm, soothing foods before bedtime. A natural remedy doctor also recommended I rub small diluted doses of lavender (with a carrier oil) on my toddler’s feet before bedtime.
Be sure to talk to your doctor!
What if my child’s sleep regression persists or worsens?
You know your child best. If you are noticing signs that something more could be happening to your child than a developmental sleep regression, talk to your child’s pediatrician. Sometimes trouble sleeping can be a symptom of another medical issue- it’s always best to consult your doctor.
In the event that nothing medical is happening to your child but the sleep regression is persisting for several months, you can consult a sleep specialist who will work with you and your family on a personalized sleep plan.
How can establishing a consistent sleep routine help in dealing with 2-year-old sleep regression?
Your child’s sleep foundation is not lost! Just because they are experiencing a sleep regression due to a growth progression, it doesn’t mean your child’s once-good sleep habits are gone for good.
To cultivate your child’s healthy sleep patterns, creating a consistent bedtime and naptime routine can help your child feel comforted during this time of change.
If your child never had a sleep routine, it’s never too late to start! And if your child had a sleep routine but it doesn’t work anymore, don’t be afraid to pivot and meet your child’s needs as they grow.
What elements should be considered when creating a sleep-friendly environment for a 2-year-old with sleep regression?
A sleep-friendly environment is a safe place that promotes good sleep. Some easy changes you can make to your sleep space to make it as comfortable as possible are black out curtains, sound machine, and cool temperatures.
Recap of Dealing with the 2 year old Sleep Regression
The key to dealing with (and surviving) the 2 year old sleep regression is to understand the signs and address the possible causes.
By understanding why this is happening and addressing what sleep disruptions are occurring, you can effectively work your way back to better sleep- building on the sleep foundation you have been using.
These days (and nights!) can be longgg and tiring. Don’t forget to care for yourself too! Your mental health as parents is very important as you venture through this sleep journey your child is on.
You got this, mama!