Is your 3-year-old suddenly regressing in their sleep? Toddlers can go through several sleep regressions, including one around 3 years old. Learn about the 3-year-old sleep regression and how to fix it in your child!
If you would have asked me a few months ago if there was a 3-year-old sleep regression, I would have said, “not really.” At this point I would assume it’s more your child’s habits or behaviors that are waking them up.
But then the 3-year old sleep regression hit our household HARD! We have been diligent and consistent with our daughter’s sleep habits and she’s been a great sleeper for the most part!
I can count on two hands how many times she’s woken up in the middle of the night after she started sleeping through around 14 weeks old. And most of those times were during the 2-year-old sleep regression. Seriously, these toddler sleep regressions are rough!
I thought we had sailed past the common sleep regressions and were in the clear. That is until the 3-year-old sleep regression reared it’s ugly head.
Now technically, my sleep consulting education did not cover a 3-year sleep regression, which is why I didn’t think it existed! But after experiencing it for myself, I can tell you that it’s very real and very exhausting!
How Does the Three-Year-Old Sleep Regression Show Up?
The three-year old sleep regression can present itself in a number of ways, including:
- Your 3-year old suddenly fighting bedtime
- Your 3-year old waking at night
- Your 3-year old fighting nap
Why Is My 3-Year-Old Waking Up At Night?
I was asking myself this same question and wracking my brain to try and figure it out! I realized that she was still napping for about 1.5 hours each day and was probably getting too much daytime sleep.
Her imagination has also been blossoming and new fears started to present themself to her while she was alone in her room at night.
Your three-year old may be experiencing changes in his life such as welcoming a new sibling, transitioning to a toddler bed, starting preschool, or other things that can impact his sleep.
I pinpointed part of why my daughter was waking up at night but now I needed to figure how to fix it. She still takes a nap at preschool and it’s required, so I really had to get creative!
How Do I Fix My 3-Year-Old Sleep Regression?
This regression can be a bit different from the others, because many of the problems can be solved by changing your child’s sleep schedule.
If your three-year-old is still napping, it may be time to cut back on the nap length, or cut the nap out altogether. Too much daytime sleep can cause toddlers to fight bedtime, wake up in the middle of the night, or wake up early in the morning.
Their sleep needs have drastically decreased from those newborn days. Three-year-olds need approximately 11 to 13 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
Here’s a good sample 3-year-old sleep schedule with a one-hour nap. If you think your baby needs a little more time, you can extend it to 1.5 hours. If you think they need less time, you can cut it back.
7:00 am – Wake Up
1:00 pm–2:00 pm – Nap
7:30 pm – Bedtime
If you think your baby is ready to drop the nap completely, you can introduce quiet time so you both still get a bit of rest each day.
Reducing the nap length or cutting it out completely will solve many people’s three-year-old sleep regression. But if you’re still struggling, then keep reading.
What to do When Your Three-Year-Old Wakes up in the Middle of the Night
One of the most important things about dealing with a 3-year-old sleep regression is to remain firm and consistent. Three-year olds are smart and it can be really easy to start creating new habits in desperation of getting everyone some sleep.
Each time our daughter would wake up in the middle of the night and come into our room, I would boringly walk her back to her bed. You want to avoid giving them extra attention for the middle-of-the-night wakeup.
There will be requests to sleep with you, for you to sleep in their room, etc. Decide in advance what you and your partner want. For us, we wanted our bed and bedroom to ourselves. We all sleep better without a tiny human in our bed—including the tiny human!
My daughter woke up consistently for 2 weeks and each time I would walk her back to bed and be boring about it. I wouldn’t say much and I kept the room dark.
Finally, I realized that I also needed to communicate my expectations to her. At 3.5 years old, she understands way more than I realize sometimes!
We use a Hatch rest so she knows when it’s bedtime and when it’s morning time. We talked about how we are to stay in our beds all night so everyone can get their sleep. Once the light turns purple (her color choice) we can get up and play!
We talked about this several times throughout the day and I even asked her questions and let her answer to make sure she fully understood! I also told her if she stayed in her room all night until her light was purple, she could have a few minutes of watching my phone in the morning.
I’m happy to report that it’s been 5 consecutive days and she hasn’t woken up or protested bedtime! I think we finally kicked the 3-year-old sleep regression to the curb!