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.
Read: 5 Truths About Parenting Toddlers — That We Tend To Forget
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.
Read: The Nap Trap- How to Deal with It and Not Resist It
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.
Read: Nightmares, Night Terrors, & Sleep Walking In Kids: Strategies For Relief
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.
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.
Read: The Top 10 Indicators It’s Time to Sleep Train
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.
Read: The 10 Second Trick to Help Toddlers Conquer Fear of the Dark
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.
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.
Marie Woolmer says
My 2yr old (3 in august) stopped going to bed nicely, stopped sleeping through the night and started waking very early the week before Christmas because she was scared that father Christmas was going to go into her room. Here we are more than 6months later and still no sign of sorting this. There is no option to nap as she is at pre-school all day and we both work. I’m EXHAUSTED. She wakes so often in the night I am shocked she can still keep going! Please do you have any help for us?
Thanks, Rachel! I have a question, though. I would have loved to keep my son (turned 2 in July) in a crib, but he kept climbing out and climbing back in in a very unsafe way. We tried the gate, but the way our door frame is, B could get out of the gate. We are forced to just close the door. He actually knows how to open the door and will come out in the hallway at 2:30 am. Both naptimes and bedtimes have been difficult for two weeks now. He used to sleep 13 hours at night and nap for three hours during the day. Siiiiighhhhhhhh. Is there any other advice you can offer? I have two older children and never had these issues.
I used one of those kid proof doorknob covers for the inside of my toddlers room when we switched him to a bed. That worked for a long time until he was strong enough and could figure out how to open with the cover on.
I have the same problem, 2 other kids never did this, did you find anything that helps
We are literally in the same boat! As I’m typing at 3am and he’s been up for 2 hours!
Hello. My 2 year old is Sedona displays these same emotions you expressed above. We just loved. I thought that was the problem. We set up her room exactly like the old house before she arrived and she never saw the new house in disarray. It’s been a rough two weeks. Thoughts? She won’t fall asleep unless one of us is sitting in the room. She also wakes at night screaming when she notices we are gone. We are exhausted.
My husband and I are in the same boat. Everything you have typed is exactly us right now for 2 weeks. Has anything worked lately?
My toddler turned 2 at the end of September 2018. For the last 6 days he’s refusing to have his daytime nap. I let him ‘cry it out’ i check on him and also have a monitor. This will last over an hour.
At night he will go into his cot with a little fight, but accepts its bedtime.
What has made his sleep habits change. He used to wave me out of the room. The last 2 days he’s napped in my room which he is getting used to. I don’t want to start a bad habit of this. Should i be putting him back in his cot and leave him CIO again?
He needs his nap as he sleeps from 7pm to 5am.
my 2 year old (turned 2 in July 2018) has always been hard to get to sleep and stay asleep. we sleep trained with responsive settling from 4 months old and we managed to get her to the point where she was getting herself to sleep for naps and bedtime well at about 1yr old but she has always woken a lot at night. To the point at 18 months old she was waking every night at around 2am and would be awake for 2-3hours . We saw lots of sleep specialists and paediatricians who organised sleep studues and didnt find a cause and said we were doing all the right things, their last suggestion was to transition from cot to bed and then from the day we did this the issues stopped completely at 2 yrs old, she was sleeping through the night 7.30pm-6.30-7am and was having a nap for around 1hr.
Until 3 weeks ago where she has begun refusing to nap most days (shes had one nap in this 3 weeks and this made her take 2 hours to fall asleep at bedtime) even with me consistently putting her down everyday for a nap , i have tried to tweak the nap time to make it later so she’s tireder but doesn’t work. She’s lasting until 7.30pm at night and waking around 7am now. and still sleeping through the night. she gets a little cranky around 6.30pm but thats the only issue behaviour wise. I see you said that 2 yr olds still need naps but is it possible she actually doesn’t anymore. We have a good wind down routine and same thing every day. If we happen to be out she still doesn’t fall asleep in the car in the late afternoon , early evening either.
Chloe Williams says
Heya, My son turned 2 in August 2018 he’s always been a fantastic sleeper but the past 3/4 weeks things have been changing.. he was going to sleep fine but waking during the night and screaming for me and he wouldn’t fall back to sleep unless I was in bed with him, then he went back to sleeping fine, then it started again but he would have the biggest melt down just to go to sleep I mean he would put himself in all shapes, screaming, kicking, headbutting you name it then that stopped, now if he falls to sleep in bed at his normal bed time he would wake up crying and won’t go back to sleep for over an hour and tonight it’s now half 10 he’s been crying and wouldnt go to sleep unless I was cuddling him in bed, he’s waking up super early to, he doesn’t nap now because he goes to half day nursery in the afternoons and if I was to try him for a nap he won’t go can I have some advice as I’m at my whits end.. it’s not only affecting his sleep but the way he is during the days to, he’s a totally different child but family member have been putting it down to “terrible twos” xx
Nice post and good advice. Love to see articles like this.
The advice about the crib kind of irked me, I would let him stay in there forever but I CANT leave my son in his because he climbs out and could seriously injure himself and already has several times. We tried tents, dropping the bottom out, EVERYTHING. I’d LOVE to have left him in there longer but now he’s 18 months old in a toddler bed and gets up FREQUENTLY throughout the night … I am at my wits end and don’t know what to do :(
Rachel Norman says
Diana, of course this would irk you if one of the points of advice WILL NOT WORK with yours. That sweet little thing just is an escape artist, isn’t he?
Me too. My first two year old actually broke her arm and had to wear a cast for 6 weeks because she jumped out of the crib for her first time. She had never attempted and we didn’t expect it. For my second daughter, we moved her to the toddler bed at two for safety.
My 2 year old stoped napping all together and doesn’t go to bed until 2 am there is nothing to do about that
Hi my 22 month old was such a good sleeper then all of a sudden since Dec 29th, 2018 shes not sleeping through the night. It’s easy to put her down she falls asleep fast, but won’t stay asleep. She’s been on a schedule and has a solid bedtime routine and we’ve worked with a sleep consultant but nothing i’m doing is working now. All she wants to do is sleep in our bed and when she wakes up she’s screaming for us where before she would stay quietly until we came into her room. I bought her a night light that is timed and turns on when it’s time to wake up, and she understand that but it doesn’t seem to matter when she wakes up at night. I’m hoping it’s a phase.. just need to know what i can do to stop it
Rachel Norman says
Alyssa, is it teething? That nearly 2 and 2 year old time is a rough one!
I am going through the exact same thing!!! It’s almost a week that my 22 month old son wakes up in the middle of the night screaming and calling mama. I am also hoping it’s a phase since I am 4 months pregnant and super tired since I don’t sleep well when he comes in our bed. I’ve tried going in his room a few times to calm him down and not take him in our room but the screaming gets louder and worse everytime I go see him! I do see that his teeth are pushing through but he never seemed to have this issue when he was teething other times! He slept in his crib from the age of 2 months! Why is this happening now!?!? :(:(:(:( It seems like he’s scared of being in his room or bad dreams? I will try getting him a dream catcher over the weekend… I just really hope it passes!
Any other advise from parents going through the same thing?
I have had issues with sleep with all my children and different things have worked for each. If they are waking with bad dreams frequently or are scared and your willing to try a dream catcher (which worked well with my oldest, just knowing what it did and seeing it there helped so much) I tried burning sage with the window cracked so the smoke could go out it’s called smugging it’s helps clear the room and the lingering smell can be relaxing, I do it for my daughter every couple months in her room. For my middle son I use lavender essential oil a couple drops on the backside of his pillow it helps naturally relax him and keeps him asleep, for my youngest son especially when he’s sick I will use lavender(help fall asleep) tea tree(kills bacteria in the air) and peppermint (clears sinuses) in a defuser. You can also use a chamomile and lavender mixture just not for babies 6 months and under. The essential oils you will want to be pure oils not perfume as perfume and fake sents can harm babies or cause a reaction which is not typical to happen with oils just don’t use a lot a few drops is lots and never apply directly to skin. Each of my children (I have 4) where very different, but I found relaxing smells and sounds sleep/meditation/nature and dim lighting, also a visual something such as a special bear, dream catcher, night time gemstones, a little prayer (you don’t have to be religious, saying thank you universe, or goodnight I love you and name people that love them) or affirmation “tonight I’m good sleep tight and wake after the morning light and see those who love me and hug them right” “I am safe in my bed only love and good thoughts will fill my head” I hope my different experiences helps give you some outside the box ideas sometimes those work the best.
My son turned 2 September 16 2018.
He started climbing out of his crib shortly after so we decided to take one of the sides off (it’s a crib that converts) . Now he gets up and gets in bed with my husband and I. Sometimes he goes back to sleep and sometimes he gets up and roams the house waking our other children up. We just get up with him anymore. I’m going to try the nightlight because hes always slept in dark room, also going to try the baby gate. Hopefully one tall enough he cant climb ?♀️. He is a climbing , adventurous little guy lol. This article has helped and I will be trying these tips
Hope you are doing well and that you had an amazing New Year! :)
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Renee Bell says
My grandson is 2 yrs old no problem with nap but will stay up all night please help
Just as all other moms I am going through nap resistance. She usually just stands there screaming MAMA MOM MOMMYYYYYY MAAAA and this can go on for an hour. She is sleepy I can tell and I do know that in her case she just doesn’t want to miss out on playing or going out to the park. I was wondering if me laying down next tk the crib and taking a nap with her would be helpful or make things worse. I would like to show her that I am also napping and she is not missing out on anything since I am with her not somewhere else doing „fun” things (dishes….).
Any suggestions for a newly turned two year old who was screaming bloody murder (sounded scared) if/when we would put her in her crib and go out? At this point she is staying up till my husband and I go to bed (9-9:30, usually, which I know is too late for her), because she often takes so long to go to sleep at night (45 minutes to an hour) and I simply can’t wait in a dark bedroom (with a dim nightlight) for that long and then go out to finish cleaning up the kitchen and what not before going to sleep (I’m half asleep myself at that point, not to mention that it pushes Mama and Daddy’s bedtime too late). We need to figure something out so that she doesn’t need us both in the room with her in order to go to sleep at night because we’re expecting our second this winter and won’t be able to do that. (She also wants me to lay down in the bedroom at naptime.)
I have transitioned my 22 month old to a toddler bed as he worked out how to climb out of his cot, therefore becoming a safety issue. We are having major issues getting him to sleep (takes anywhere from 30mins – 1.5 hrs), he then wakes multiple times through the night. Then late in the night ends up walking into my bedroom, climbing into my bed and co-sleeping / breastfeeding through the early hours of the morning. My ultimate goals are to wean him and sleep train him to self settle, in order to sleep through the night. Do you have a step by step method of sleep training in order to achieve these things? From a tired- desperate mama ?.
I honestly had NO idea there was a 2 year old regression!! My son just turned 2 (May 2019) and has been fighting sleep at night relentlessly. He naps at daycare perfectly fine, but he will cry, scream, and do anything to avoid bedtime, and even wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes. We took away his binky (cold turkey) a little over a week ago and thought that was the culprit. But honestly, I’m now wondering if it’s a combination of the two?! My husband and I are also at our wit’s end… it is so exhausting.
Hannah Morris says
My 2 year old for 9 months now (so before he was 2) changed, he refused naps but even if he did nap it wouldn’t be for long (he use to sleep 2 hours at 11am and go to bed at 7:30pm with no problems at all), he would cut the nap short some days by an hour some days by half hour but then we would put him to bed and it would take him 2 hours to settle, he would fidget, talk, sing, count, throw his dummy (which we have no gotten rid of), throw out his pillow or duvet and just do what he could to not go to sleep.
The last few weeks he has demanded a light on and his door to be open, he struggles for a nap and still struggles to settle at night. The days he doesn’t nap we put him to be around 6am but he wakes so early at 5am. Even if he does have a nap (even a half hour nap), he still doesn’t settle at bed time. He must be exhausted and we are too. We are due baby number 2 in October so we need his sleep to be better.
My son just turned 2 a few days ago. There have been lots of life changes for our family in the past few months such as selling our home so quick we had to move in with my parents and so all in one room sleeping. He was in a playpen. That lasted 4-6 weeks. My husband was moving his crib over to our new house and didn’t strap it down very well as our storage unit was right behind our new house.. and the crib fell off and broke ? in an effort to save money and kill two birds with one stone we got our son a toddler bed. Then my husband left for 2 weeks for work. The bed wasn’t slept in until then as it had just arrived right before he left. I had him in his new bed every night and he slept through the night 3 nights and the others got up a couple times which I expected. Since my husband got back home a couple weeks ago he has the worst separation anxiety screams every time we walk away from him. And just says daddy daddy daddy all day. And gets up at night I know 15 or more times ? it’s killing me. He’s gotten in our bed a few nights just for pure survival. But I don’t want him in my bed. He is a wild sleeper and it’s almost worse than just being awake the whole time. I have tried everything I know how to. Nightlight, lullabies, white noise, rocking, paci, laying beside him in his room, keeping him up later, trying to keep him busier throughout the day, not letting him nap more than 2 hours. Nothing seems to be helping. Im truly at a loss and i can’t help but feel angry and anxious all the time because I’m not getting the rest I need to do my job(s) as mother wife maid and my day to day job. I know all of these changes have affected my son, but it’s been several weeks of him having his bed in his room and it did not take this long to transition him to his own room in his crib in our old house. Any advice or suggestions are more than welcome and prayers would be appreciated as well ❤️
I have a 2 year 3 month old. He turned 2 in May 2019. He naps just fine at Daycare and at his Grandmother’s house but fights me for over 30 minutes about his nap at home. Bedtime is EVEN worse! We start his bedtime routine at 7pm. It is now 9:15pm and he is STILL up in his room. He is a rally strong, bigger 2 year old and was climbing out of his crib before he even turned 2 so we changed that. We had a mattress on the floor for a while because we did not want to make too many changes all at once. This past week we finally bought a bed frame and he has an official “big kid bed”. But, he WILL NOT stay in the damn thing. He is so tired but plays, talks to himself, and then also at times stands at the baby gate screaming for one of us. We are in a 1 floor home, open floor plan so I very much feel like a prisoner in my own home because I do not want to leave my bedroom or living room once he is in there in fear he will see and start yelling for me all over again. SO FRUSTRATED!!!!
So many questions…. so few answers!
Very helpful and creative article. Proper healthy diet and regular bedtime routine help the kids to get a better sleep. There are some other sleeping tips such as maintain daily bedtime routine, keep room temperature comfortable, go to bed as early as possible, turn off lights and all electronic devices, using comfortable mattress, etc. Thank you so much for share this well-written article…
Rachel Norman says
Yes, these are all great ways to bring comfort to your 2 year old so they’ll be able to sleep well!
My 2-1/2 year physically fights me when we start her bedtime routine. She writhes and kicks. I’m so freakin exhausted, I feel like I’ve been in a boxing match. Once she calms down, it’s lullabies while reading a few books, then I lay her in the crib. She then fusses for five minutes or so them she’s out like a light till morning. She has a 30 min Carnap when I pick up the older kids.
This article helped! I feel reassured that we will keep the crib for awhile and maybe it’s teething. I was thinking of adding magnesium or melatonin supplements occasionally to help calm her, any advice on that?
Rachel Norman says
I’d try magnesium for sure, but I’d try not to add in melatonin just yet. Research is still out on whether it’ll replace the body’s ability to produce this. That said I had one babe I was consulting with lately that actually had low blood sugar and she’d wake up all the time and fight sleep.
I wonder, also, if she’s EXHAUSTED at beddtime and is kind of losing it and letting all her frustration out? If you moved bedtime UP some, would that help?
Danielle Daniels says
Your article says “trying to convince someone the earth ISNT flat.”
Rachel Norman says
HA HA HA. Oh dear, editing fail. Changed it, thanks :)