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Surviving the Two Year Old Sleep Regression

Many toddlers go through a sleep regression around two years old. Learn more about why the 2 year old sleep regression happens and how to make it through with a sleeping toddler in tact!

two year old sleep regression, toddler crying in crib

You know what’s almost harder than newborn sleep problems? Toddler sleep problems.

Your little baby is growing up and is starting to form his own opinions, push boundaries, and struggle with a sleep regression all over again.

Many toddlers go through a two-year old or 3-year old sleep regression that can make parents feel like they have a newborn baby in the house all over again. The two year sleep regression can technically happen anytime between 2 to 3 years old.

We certainly experienced it with my daughter! She went from sleeping 11 to 12 hours every night to waking us up at least once in the middle of the night several times a week.

There really was no rhyme or reason to the wake ups. We learned that we had to stay consistent in our approach with her if we wanted to sail past the regression without forming new sleep habits.

We were determined to keep everyone in their own beds throughout the night and not allow bedtime to become a battle.

The good news is that the 2 year old sleep regression is one of last major sleep regression that kids go through! Stay consistent with your approach and maintain consistent boundaries and you can come though on the other side with a good sleeper for life!

toddler climbing out of crib part of 2 year old sleep regression

Is There A Sleep Regression at Two Years Old?

There is definitely is a sleep regression at two years old! But unlike other sleep regressions, like the 4-month sleep regression or 9-month old sleep regression this one is more about your toddler asserting his independence than a change in his sleep patterns.

From protesting bedtime to climbing out of their cribs—toddlers are all about pushing those limits and seeing what they can get away with!

The sleep regression can rear its ugly head in a number of ways including:

Remember that boundary-testing is the biggest part of the two-year old sleep regression (and also completely developmentally appropriate!).

if you can keep that in the back of your mind it will empower you to stay consistent with your toddler and help everyone make it past the 2 year old sleep regression without forming new sleep habits!

two year old sleep regression, toddler laying with mom

Why Is My Two Year Old Suddenly Not Sleeping?

Your two-year old may suddenly start waking up in the middle of the night (after previously sleeping through with no problem). Many toddlers also start resisting bedtime and naps around this age, leaving parents to wonder if it’s time to drop the nap. (No, not yet!).

Any number of things could be the reason your two year old suddenly starts waking up in the middle of the night. Here are a few of the culprits for those middle of the night wake ups:

  • Potty training
  • Welcoming a new sibling
  • Fear of the dark or other imaginary objects
  • Two-year old molars
  • Separation anxiety
  • Starting a new preschool
  • Learning new skills like language
  • Being a toddler

All of these things can cause a bit of anxiety in your toddler. Pair this with their need to test those boundaries and you have a perfect mix for a sleep regression.

Sometimes there aren’t any new changes in a two year old’s life and they’ll still go through a sleep regression. Just chalk it up to having a toddler and remember that it’s a phase and will pass!

two year old sleep regression, toddler laying with mom

How Long Does the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression Last?

Sleep regressions can last anywhere from two to six weeks, but at this age it will be especially important that you don’t introduce new habits like laying with your toddler to sleep or letting him crawl into bed with you.

If you stay consistent the sleep regression will pass shortly. However, if you start new sleep habits like co-sleeping or laying on the floor of your child’s bedroom, then that can easily become the new norm until your child grows out of it or you use a sleep training method to get back on track!

Follow these practical tips to help you get through the two year regression and come through the other side without new and unwanted sleep habits!

What Do I Do If My 2 Year Old Has A Sleep Regression?

If your two year old is experiencing a sleep regression (and most toddlers do!) know that it is temporary! Offer support and comfort without starting new habits. Keep your bedtime routine consistent and set clear boundaries for your toddler.

two year old sleep regression, toddler fighting naps

2 Year Old Sleep Regression Solutions

The 2 year old sleep regression will show up in different ways for each child. Some children will struggle with naps, some with bedtime, some with middle of the night wake ups, and some will struggle with all three! Others will suddenly start having toddler bedtime tantrums and protesting going to sleep.

Follow these different solutions, depending on how the 2 year old regression is showing up with your toddler!

Solve your Toddler’s Sleep Troubles

toddler sleep training guide mock up

Grab my Toddler Sleep Training Guide to help you with your toddler’s sleep! Get your toddler out of your bed and into their own using the most effective sleep training techniques for toddlers and big kids. This guide also includes tons of tips and tricks for tackling toddler’s sleep! Get it here.

If Your Toddler is Struggling with Naps

Many two year olds start resisting nap time, so parents think it’s time to drop it. But most toddlers still need a mid-day nap until about age 3 or 4. Don’t mistake a 2 year old nap strike for the readiness to drop a nap altogether.

If you pull the nap too soon from your toddler’s sleep schedule, he may start melting down at 4 PM every day from being overtired and overstimulated.

If your two year old starts protesting his nap—or plays through it altogether—continue to offer the nap daily instead of throwing in the towel.

You can introduce a pre-nap routine to help your toddler wind down and get ready for his nap.

The Nap Time Routine

Keep your nap time routine short, between 5 and 10 minutes and do the same 2 or 3 activities before nap time to help your child wind down and cue to them that sleep is coming.

Your nap time routine can be going into your child’s room, reading one or two books and then tucking them in. A short and simple routine that you do every day can help with the nap time resistance.

two year old sleep regression solutions, toddler climbing out of crib

If your Toddler is Struggling at Bedtime

Toddlers are masters of stall tactics. One more sip of water, two more stories, one more trip to the bathroom. The list will go on and on if you let it!

If you already have a bedtime routine, stay consistent in the activities that you do with your toddler! Toddlers actually feel safer when we maintain boundaries.

Give forced choices. Toddlers love to be in control. If your child understands language, you can give him forced choices through the bedtime process for the different activities you do leading up to bedtime. This gives toddlers a sense of autonomy.

Some examples of choices you can give your toddler at bedtime include:

  • Do you want to wear the blue pajamas or red pajamas?
  • Do you want to read two books or three books?
  • Do you want mommy to read the book in silly voice or serious voice?

Double check your 2 year old’s sleep schedule and make sure his wake time and nap time is sufficient. Around 24 months, most kids need between 5 and 6 hours of awake time in between sleep. A one to two hour nap in the middle of the day is a great goal for this age.

If you’ve remained consistent and your child is wide awake at bedtime and having trouble falling asleep—or if they are consistently waking up early in the morning—you can start cutting their nap by about 15 to 30 minutes.

You may need to wake them up from their nap each day to maintain their overnight sleep.

two year old sleep regression, toddler lying with mom at night

If your Toddler is Struggling in the Middle of the Night

If you’ve determined that your toddler’s sleep schedule is appropriate and they are still waking up in the middle of the night, you can sleep train them. Sleep training your toddler will reinforce that night time is for sleeping and can help prevent you from developing new sleep habits and associations.

Choose a sleep training technique that works with your parenting style and your child’s personality and stay consistent.

Make sure to allow your toddler time and space to express his concerns throughout the day. If fears have popped up, let him talk about those and reassure him that he is safe in his room.

Also, give your toddler plenty of love and attention throughout the day, especially if there has been a major change in your life like starting preschool or bringing home a new sibling.

Try to stay consistent and remember that it’s just a phase. The good news is this is the last major sleep regression for most kids! If you can keep healthy sleep habits during this time, you’re setting your whole family up for many years of healthy sleep!

Amy Motroni

Ashley

Monday 13th of September 2021

This was a very good article but none of the research I have done give suggestions on what to do with early wake up. Any advice?

Amy Motroni

Monday 13th of September 2021

Hi Ashley,

The Hatch Rest can be a huge help for early morning wake ups: https://amzn.to/31c9gqQ. Toddlers can't tell time so this reinforces the idea that it's still sleep time.

I also have a separate post about early morning wake ups which might be helpful: https://thepostpartumparty.com/baby-waking-up-too-early/

Hope that helps! Amy