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If you’re a parent of a toddler, chances are that you’ve heard about the two-year-old sleep regression. This phenomenon makes it difficult for your child to fall asleep or stay asleep in their own bed. For many parents, this can be frustrating because they feel like they’ve been doing everything right up until now! But don’t worry: there is hope for getting through this time period and having a happy child again. Here’s what you need to know about the two-year-old sleep regression and why your toddler is having trouble sticking to their regular sleep schedule.
What is the two-year-old sleep regression?
Parents typically report that children experience a sleep regression at the two-year mark, which causes them to have trouble sleeping through the night or staying asleep. They may wake up often in the middle of the night and they may suddenly resist naps – it varies from child to child.
It’s frustrating because it feels like everything has been going well up until now! But the two-year-old sleep regression is very common, and it’s more than likely not something you will need to worry about for long!
Children commonly have sleep regressions at ages 4 months, 8-10 months, 18 months and around 24 months, so with any luck this will be the last of the major developmental sleep regressions you’ll need to work through.
While every child is different, there are some signs that your toddler might be going through a sleep regression. If you notice these things, don’t worry! Things will get better soon:
- Crying more often and appearing very unhappy / more clingy than usual during the day
- Not wanting to go to bed or stay asleep in their own bed at night
- Having nightmares (and even asking for you in the night)
- Not wanting to sleep alone, even if it means climbing into your bed every single time
- Suddenly stopping naps or not taking naps anymore
- Acting more energetic and less tired during the day, like they have a lot of energy to burn
- Making frequent trips back into their room at night, even if they’ve been asleep for hours already
You may find your child shows one, or multiple of these signs. It may also be that they cycle through a few of them, too.
What are the causes of sleep regression in a two-year-old?
There are many causes of the two-year-old sleep regression, including a big change in routine, birthdays and holidays, bedtime struggles with younger siblings still awake, illness or teething.
It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific cause because it can be different for every child. It could also just be that they’re going through a developmental stage where they’re more aware of their surroundings and it takes them longer to fall asleep.
Here are a few of the most common reasons your two-year-old is having a harder time with sleep these days:
- Major changes in your two-year-old’s life – This could mean anything from the birth of another sibling to starting preschool or kindergarten. These types of transitions can really throw off children’s sleep schedules for a while.
- Seasonal changes – Just as adults struggle with the changing of seasons, children’s sleep habits can be affected too! The lack of sunlight during cold months or the abundance in sunny days during summer might play a role in your child struggling to stay asleep at night or staying awake all day long.
- The two-year old growth spurt – A growth spurt can be another reason for the two-year old sleep regression. Children are usually in a deep sleep state when they’re going through a big change, and this makes it difficult to get them to stay asleep at night or wake up all day long.
- Household routine changes – When your family shifts to a new schedule, it can be hard for your toddler to maintain their old sleep pattern. For example: if they’re going from staying up until midnight all the time to suddenly being put down at eight o’clock every night, they’re going to wonder what is going on!
- Naps are harder to fit in – It could be that life has shifted from ‘baby focussed’ to ‘family-focused’, with more things happening during the day. Playdates become a thing, and you may be less inclined to schedule your day around a specific nap time. This can impact your little one’s sleep at nighttime, but also during the day – they may be resisting that daytime nap out of habit now, too.
- Separation anxiety – Two-year-olds just want to be near their parents. They’re very attached to their caregivers and might feel a little worried about being on their own now that they know more of the world.
- Teething – Teething can cause a child to wake up more often than usual, and it also makes them want to chew on things! There’s a good chance that those 2-year-old molars are causing your little one some grief.
- FOMO – That good old ‘Fear Of Missing Out’! They’ve worked out that exciting things are happening when they’re asleep, and if they sleep, they’re missing out!
Things to know about your 2-year-old’s sleep
As a child develops and grows, their needs change, too. At two, your little one is likely down to one nap, and their sleep needs decrease overall – down to about 10.5-11 hours or so a night.
You’ll find they’re a little more resistant to sleep, too – and that’s totally normal. Sleep is a sensitive issue for many two-year-olds, so don’t be surprised if they’re refusing bedtime more often than not at this point in their life!
There is a balance to be struck when it comes to sleep, since a child who is overtired is actually often less likely to go to sleep! (Which doesn’t seem to make sense, but I’ve absolutely experienced this!)
The important thing to remember is that just because your two-year old might be resisting bedtime, that doesn’t mean they’re doing it on purpose. They may simply not understand why you want them to go to sleep at the end of the day – and for a little one who is constantly learning about themselves and their world, this can make sense!
If you can, maintain a daytime nap for a bit longer. Most children still need a nap until they’re between three and five, so don’t make the mistake of cutting them off cold turkey to try and help that nighttime sleep. You might find being more proactive with the daytime nap, and making more of a consistent routine of it, will help you.
The two-year-old sleep regression will pass!
The toddler years are a challenging time for many families as yours adjusts to new routines at home or work! We often forget that just because our little ones have grown bigger, doesn’t mean they’re already independent. There is plenty of teaching left to do, and as simple as it might seem, ‘how to sleep’ is actually quite a lesson to learn.
I know it feels like this struggle will go on forever, but it won’t! Make a plan and stick to it – consistency is key here so that your little one knows what to expect. (which can help address some of that anxiety.)
Hopefully you found this article helpful and informative. We’ve got more information and resources to help you with your child’s sleep.