2 Year Old Sleep Regression: What It Is and Why Does It Happen?

  • By: Gian
  • Date: June 8, 2022
  • Time to read: 7 min.

For most parents, getting their children to sleep through the night is a major victory.

But what happens when your child suddenly starts waking up again after months of uninterrupted slumber? Your toddler may be experiencing the 2-year-old sleep regression.

The 2-year-old sleep regression is a change in your toddler’s sleep schedule that can seemingly pop up out of nowhere. Most toddlers will start to resist bedtime and nap time and may start sleeping for shorter periods of time. This can be difficult for parents as they try to figure out how to get their toddlers to sleep through the night again.

What Is the 2-Year-Old Sleep Regression?

The 2-year-old sleep regression is a brief period of time, during which a 2-year-old who was otherwise sleeping well may begin to fight sleep, waking throughout the night, or rise too early in the morning. This regression can be caused by various factors, but can usually be distinguished from other sleep disturbances based on when it occurs and how long it lasts. Babies often experience sleep regression at four months, at 10 months and have a one year sleep regression, so you may have been through this before!

What Causes the 2-Year-Old Sleep Regression?

Most parents know about the infamous toddler sleep regression. But what causes it? And why does it happen at that specific age?

Developmental Milestones

Developmental milestones can cause sleep disruptions around most children’s second birthday. This means that your child may start having trouble sleeping as they go through different stages of development and as they learn new skills.

For instance, they might still be adjusting to their potty training or to the changes to their sleep cycle. Additionally, toddlers at this age have longer awake times.

Usually, these bedtime issues will pass as they continue to grow and develop. In time and with proper sleep training, your toddler will get enough sleep again and develop healthy sleep habits.

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety

Some kids get upset when their parents leave them. This is called separation anxiety. Kids with separation anxiety might have a hard time sleeping when they’re away from their parents.

Separation anxiety typically starts to develop after a toddler realizes that objects still exist even when they can’t see them.

Once your child understands this concept, she may start feeling unsettled and anxious when you’re away from her.

Teething

Teething can cause sleep disruptions in toddlers. When a toddler is teething, they might wake up more often at night or have trouble falling asleep. This is because their gums are sore and they are uncomfortable.

Overtiredness

Being overtired can make it hard for toddlers to sleep. When they’re tired, their brains don’t shut down properly and they might wake up during the night. This can make it difficult for them to get a good night’s sleep. See our guide to How To Help An Overtired Baby Catch Up On Sleep

Changes in Sleep Needs

At around two years old, most kids usually need to be awake for prolonged periods before bed to be sufficiently tired. And this can cause changes to their sleep routine and sleep patterns. When Do Babies Drop Morning Nap

Toddlers are also capable of going on successful nap strikes for longer periods of time, which can result in them being super cranky or having difficulty sleeping. A nap strike is when a toddler doesn’t take a nap for an extended period of time. This can be due to various reasons such as the child being too busy playing or simply not feeling tired.

Independence

Being more independent can sometimes make it hard for toddlers to sleep. Most toddlers in this age group are either in daycare or nursery school, and their newfound independence encourages them to try doing things by themselves and they can get tired from working hard. They might also wake up during the night if they’re trying to do things on their own and not sleeping enough.

How Long Will 2-Year Old Sleep Regression Last?

Sleep regression is a common occurrence in toddlers and usually lasts 1-3 weeks. It can be difficult to cope with, but it’s usually just a phase that your child will outgrow.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Regression?

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Regression?

Sleep disruptions are common during the toddler years.

Around the age of two, many toddlers will experience a sleep regression, which can cause them to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.

There are several signs that your toddler is experiencing sleep regression. Common symptoms include:

  • Having difficulty falling asleep
  • Fighting bedtime and nap time
  • Waking up frequently during naps
  • Increased night waking
  • Decreased napping
  • Resisting bedtime or nightmares
  • Displaying new fears
  • Early morning waking
  • Being cranky or irritable during the day

How to Help Your 2-Year-Old Fall Asleep During the Sleep Regression?

If you’re like most parents, the 2-year-old toddler sleep regression can be a frustrating experience. Your once well-rested toddler is now up all night, taking shorter naps than usual or fighting naps altogether.

Here are a few things you can do to help improve a child’s sleep during regressions:

Establish a Bedtime Routine and Stick To It.

Having a bedtime routine and positive sleep associations will help your toddler sleep better during sleep regression. This is because following a routine makes the body know when it is time to fall asleep. And at this age, most babies and toddlers already know how to fall asleep independently.

So if you always do things in the same order before bed, your toddler’s body will start to get tired at that time and they’ll be more likely to get better sleep. For example, doing regular evening routine, bath, brush teeth, and reading bedtime stories in the same order each night.

Make Sure Your Toddler Gets Enough Exercise During the Day.

Make Sure Your Toddler Gets Enough Exercise During the Day.

Getting enough exercise during the day can help toddlers sleep better at night.

There are many ways to make sure your toddler is getting enough exercise during the day.

A good example is to make sure they have regular outdoor playtime. This can be in your backyard, at a park, or even just going for walks around the block. It’s important to get them moving and playing as often as possible.

Create a Calm and Relaxing Environment Before Bedtime.

Creating a calm and relaxing environment before bedtime can help them sleep better. This might mean turning off the TV and all electronics, reading a calm story, or spending time with family during rest time.

Make Sure Your Toddler Has a Safe, Comfortable Place to Sleep.

Creating a safe and comfortable sleep environment is important for toddlers because it can help them sleep during sleep regressions. This means that their room and toddler bed will be comfortable and free from things that might bother them or keep them awake.

A dark, quiet room is conducive for sleeping. If your toddler has nighttime fears or experiences night terrors, consider using night light to minimize night wakings and help your child stay asleep. You can also leave their bedroom door open so your child feels she’s not alone.

Additionally, if your toddler isn’t tall enough yet to sleep on a toddler bed and is still sleeping in a crib, make sure that the crib mattress is at its lowest setting to prevent him from climbing over the crib railing.

Set Boundaries and Provide Easy Options.

Other parents may want to help toddlers get through sleep regressions by setting boundaries and providing easy options. This means having a set bedtime and letting your child know what time they need to be in bed.

You can also make it easier for them by having a few things they can choose from before bed, like what book to read at story time or what pajamas (let them choose their favorite blue, pink or yellow pajamas) to sleep in.

This will not only help your child get more sleep during this regression, but it will also help him have the same wake time and sleep times each day.

Adjust Bedtime and Nap Schedule Accordingly.

If your child starts skipping naps, make sure you adjust her bedtime schedule accordingly. Set her bedtime earlier than usual to prevent her from feeling overtired.

For example, you can set the bedtime 30 minutes earlier than the usual sleep time if your child skipped his usual afternoon nap. This will help them go to bed early and prevent overtiredness which can cause sleep issues. And if your child is getting enough sleep at night, a short nap during the day is usually fine.

Conclusion on 2-Year-Old Sleep Regression

Although sleep regressions can be frustrating for parents, they are a normal part of child development. By understanding what is happening during these regressions, parents can help their own kids through them and ensure that everyone gets the good night’s sleep they need.

If your toddler’s sleep problems persist, discuss the condition with your child’s pediatrician.

FAQs on 2-Year-Old Sleep Regression

What Time Should a 2-Year-Old Go to Bed?

Most 2-year-olds need about 11- 14 hours of sleep a day, including naps. That means that a good bedtime for most 2-year-olds is between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Of course, every child is different and some may need a little more or less sleep than others.

Do 2-Year-Olds Still Take Daytime Sleep?

Yes, some 2-year-olds might still need to take daytime naps, although they might be fewer than usual. At age 2, most children start becoming more active which means they spend more time awake than asleep.

How Much Nighttime Sleep Should a 2-Year-Old Get?

So, how much sleep does a toddler need at night? Most 2-year-olds need 11 or 12 hours of night sleep. This may seem like a lot, but it’s important for their health and development. A good night’s sleep can help them stay active and attentive during the day. It also helps them learn new things and remember what they’ve already learned.

This article was written by: Gian MIller – Full-Time Writer, Baby Whisperer & Dad of 3.

Gian spends a lot of his time writing. A self-proclaimed baby whisperer, Gian has been through it all with his own children and is passionate about sharing his hard-won wisdom with other parents. When he’s not writing or changing diapers, you can find him playing the guitar or watching baseball (or preferably both at the same time).