If you’ve got 2 year old sleep regression going on, read this post and get some simple solutions to help you get back to restful naps and evenings. If you previously did sleep training and now it seems to have reverted, keep reading.
This might be the refrain going through your head…
“My 2 year old won’t sleep. Why won’t he sleep? Why does he keep waking up? And why does he take so long to go to bed?”
You are wondering how you had a baby who was sleep well and then BAM they turned 2 and now they’re singing God Bless America for an hour from their dark room instead of going to bed.
Or maybe that’s just us.
You might have arrived at the age of 2 and felt you were in the clear, out of the woods having time to breathe, with your little one sleeping all night … then the 2 year old sleep regression creeps up.
Well, the good news is you’re not alone.
Common 2 Year Old Sleep Regression Reasons
Here are some of the common reasons little ones stop sleeping well at 2 years of age and what you can do about it.
The 2 year old sleep regression can be mastered with little to no tears!
2 Year Olds Act Like They Want To Stop Napping
I’ve heard time and time again that moms drop their 2 year old’s nap because they start fighting it.
This is where we focus on their needs, not their wants.
2 year olds need a nap during the day to get them through until bedtime. The key is to realize your baby has need for a nap and to take your little one to naptime every single day you’re home.
If they know it is not a choice, but a requirement, they spend less time fighting it.
Choose a logical time (after lunch for example) then create a nice wind down routine and make nap happen. Even if it takes your toddler a little longer to fall asleep, they still need that time of rest.
Don’t Move Them To A Toddler Bed Just Yet… 2 Year Olds Often Aren’t Ready
My 3 year old still sleeps in a crib.
Because he’s never asked for a bed, he’s still working on his self-control, and most importantly, because there’s no “rule” of when you need to move your little one to a bed.
Many mothers move their toddlers to a toddler bed super early and these are common results…
- Fights naps
- Gets out of the bed frequently
- Comes out of the bed or their bedroom at night
- Wakes up early and comes out of their room
If you have a 2 year old doing these behaviors and nothing seems to work, I recommend bringing the crib back (or borrowing one if you’ve already donated yours) until your child has enough self-control to stay in bed when asked to.
If you’ve already moved your child into a toddler bed and they come out multiple times, but you don’t want put the crib back, I recommend getting a gate like the ones below for their door. Or bells!
If you are a deep sleeper and your child won’t stay in their bed then this actually becomes a safety issue.
Read These While You’re At It
2 Year Olds Take Forever To Fall Asleep
2 year olds need slightly less sleep than 1 year olds, as a general rule. If your little one is taking long naps they may not be as tired at their normal bedtime.
Just because they take a long time to fall asleep at night doesn’t mean you need to put them to bed a lot later, but you may need to tweak naptime.
Instead of letting them sleep until 4 p.m., you may wake your toddler up around 3:30 p.m. for example.
If they are taking a bit of time in their own bed to fall asleep, but they are happy, then you’re probably fine.
They may use that time to play with their stuffed animals, sing, or even talk to themselves. This can actually be a healthy time for them to process what they’ve learned that day.
You may adjust their sleep times gradually when you notice they take longer to go to sleep, but don’t make drastic changes.
Print this and let it help you pass through the regression as quickly as possible.
2 Year Olds Can Have Bedtime Anxiety
2 year olds are much more imaginative than little ones. This is both fun for them and slightly scary. You may find your little ones who previously went to sleep in a pitch black room now need a night light.
Also, at this age, toddlers can start experiencing separation anxiety. They are more nervous to be separated from you and want a bit more attention in the evening to feel connected and safe as they drift off to sleep.
As parents, we need to validate our children’s feelings, not minimize them. You can do this by using Say What You See® with your child.
Phrases like the following do not help alleviate anxiety, so don’t bother with them.
- “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
- “Don’t be silly.”
- “You’re fine, don’t worry.”
These phrases are the same to a child as the phrase “everything happens for a reason” is to an adult who is going through something crappy.
They don’t help and – also likely – they make things worse because our feelings are being invalidated.
Sleep Little Lamb
Create sustainable sleep habits for your little lamb so the whole family can sleep peacefully without the stress, drama, and tears.Learn More
Phrases That’ll Help Your Toddler Relax
- “You feel scared right now, you don’t want mommy to leave.” | This doesn’t mean you won’t eventually go, but you are giving voice to your child’s desire.
- “You think there’s a monster and you don’t like monsters!” | Honestly, you don’t need to convince your child there aren’t monsters. It’s like trying to convince someone the earth is flat. They don’t want to listen to reason. The goal is getting a child to believe they are okay. The quickest way to do that is helping them to acknowledge what they’re feeling scared about. Acceptance is more than half the battle.
- “I love you, you are safe.” | This is powerful to a child since they view you as So Big and themselves as So Small.
Regressions happen due to teething
When your child gets their 2 year molars life gets tough.
They are fussy, irritable, and seem like a different child.
Teething may last a month or two at this time and it’s important not to drop naps and let bedtime move back later and later as a result.
Find a pain management strategy that works for your little one and keep naps and bedtime consistent.
If you aren’t sure if they’re teething or not, then give a dose of pain relief (whatever your pediatrician suggests) and see if sleep improves. This is how I’m usually able to rule out – or rule in – teething. If they take ibuprofen and then sleep a full nap for a day or two… I know it’s teething.
Give them something to bite or chew on and keep the routine steady.
Read These While You’re At It
Baby Sleep Cards & Checklists
These lovely cards and checklists will help you create and keep healthy wind down and sleep routines for your little ones.Learn More
One Common Reason Your 2 Year Old Is Not Napping (A Major 2 Year Old Sleep Regression Complaint!)
And I saved the least favorite for last…
2 year olds often go through sleep regressions because they are coming into their own minds.
They don’t want to miss out. They don’t want to stop playing. And they don’t want to be still. They don’t want to rest while other family members keep doing what they were doing.
They are starting to assert their wants.
Toddler years are great training ground for adults in our mental parenting game. Here’s where we must step back and evaluate our kids’ wants vs. needs.
They want to play, but they need to sleep. Don’t bother trying to reason with your little ones because they can’t. Offer as many choices throughout the day that you want, but don’t let nap time be a choice.
Here’s what to do when your toddler is fighting sleep…
Your little one is really growing up around this age. A lot of changes are taking place in their bodies and minds. More than likely your toddler is not ready to give up this nap, they just need to work through a few things.
Validate your child’s feelings.
Keep your limits and boundaries firm.
This regression, too, shall pass.
How To Get Through A 2 Year Old Sleep Regression
- Don’t assume your child is ready to drop naps because they fight naps.
- Have your child lie down for “rest time” even if they say they don’t want to nap.
- Consider tweaking nap times to be a bit later and then waking up your toddler by late afternoon.
- Continue to put your toddler down for bed at a reasonable hour, even if it takes them a bit to wind down.
- Persevere and you’ll often find your 2 year old begin napping and sleeping well again.
Baby bedtime can begin to feel like an actual nightmare. You just want baby to sleep well.
You just want to have some peace and quiet after a long day of momming and yet you are spending so much time trying to comfort an exhausted baby and wondering where it all went to pot.
Because moms with babies are busy (and tired) I created a set of nitty gritty baby sleep checklists that get straight to the point.
- What to look for if your baby is sick.
- And what to check if your baby won’t sleep at night.
- What to do if your baby won’t go back to sleep at night.
- And so much more!
FAQs for the 2 year old regression
It can last anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. The key is to remain consistent, don’t give up on the need for sleep, and move bedtime up slightly if your toddler is tired, and not freak out.
Developmental changes, new sibling in the family, moving, parental stress, going to daycare, a stressful experience, lax and unpredictable routines, etc.
Cry it out is a method used by many moms to help teach their little ones to self-soothe. If your little one is well fed and tired, you can remain near your child as they learn to self-settle into nap or bedtime.
Toddlers who are overtired will often wake up crying. They don’t transition well between sleep cycles and wake up fussy instead of well rested. Answer? Enforce naps and early bedtimes.
Aim for 7 o’clock, and no later than 8. A later bedtime will contribute to night terrors and overtiredness. This will make your toddler more frustrated during the day and less cooperative.
Typically 2 year olds still need naps. They may need their nap shortened so they are still hungry at bedtime, but don’t wean the afternoon nap yet.
Choose a time each day for a nap. 1 p.m. is a typical time. At that time, put your toddler to sleep with a good wind down nap ritual. If your child doesn’t sleep, but will rest or play quietly with books or toys, let them do that. At least they will have down time.