Terrible twos? Nope, not here! I prefer “tenacious twos” or “terrific twos”. Two year olds are so darn cool! They’re coming into their own, showing off their personalities, craving independence and autonomy all while they’re growth and development is exploding! Whoa, right?! That’s a lot! Plus with all of that amazing development, we commonly see the 2 year old sleep regression. Cue bedtime battles, middle of the night wakings, early morning wake ups and fighting naps. Sound familiar?
It’s important to remember that all sleep regressions are actually progressions. While sleep does regress temporarily, your little one is making huge permanent gains in other areas. So sit back with a giant cup of coffee, enjoy watching them hit some developmental milestones and use these tips to get sleep back on track!
How long will the 2 year old sleep regression last?
The good news is if your little one has a solid sleep foundation, was sleeping well before the regression AND you follow these tips, sleep regressions typically last less than two weeks. If your little one hasn’t yet mastered independent sleep or you brought back habits you don’t want to keep in the long term, you may need to use sleep coaching to help get sleep back on track.
What causes the 2 year old sleep regression?
Sleep needs change: Two year olds need less daytime sleep, on average 1-2 hours. Be sure naptime remains at 1 pm and doesn’t push later. Get them up by 2:30-3 pm so bedtime doesn’t push past 7-7:30 pm.
Desire for more autonomy and testing boundaries: Two year olds loooove control! Offering them age appropriate opportunities to have control throughout their day and during the bedtime routine will help ease the battles. Grab my free download all about this here!
Fears: Your kiddo’s imagination goes wild at this age! They may start having bad dreams or become scared of the dark. Be mindful of the media they are exposed to- what might seem harmless could be scary for a little one. My daughter is currently having bad dreams about hyenas in a book we read recently!
Transitions: New sibling? Starting preschool? Moving homes? Potty training? These are biggies and common at 2 years old. Your kiddos will need lots of reassurance during these transitions.
Moving to a big kid bed: Unless you want your 2 year old visiting you throughout the night keep the crib around for a while longer. Wait to make the crib to bed transition until your kiddo is three years old.
Separation anxiety: Separation anxiety spikes again around 2 years old. Remember this is a normal part of development and a sign of healthy attachment.
Language burst: Your little one is rapidly learning new words and chatting a whole lot more!
Teething: Two year old molars could be coming in which can cause some discomfort and disrupt sleep. Speak to your pediatrician about how to manage teething pain. Keep in mind that teething doesn’t last for weeks on end and if sleep has been disrupted for a while it’s likely not teething.
Getting Through the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression
- Consistency is KEY! First, stay consistent with your soothing bedtime routine. Toddlers need time to wind down and transition into sleep. Create a visual schedule to help your kiddo understand what to expect as part of their routine. Be sure to include connecting activities like reading together, a special song, or snuggles. This is also a great age to begin introducing mindfulness into your bedtime routine such as deep breathing and meditation.
- Tweak the schedule and keep the nap: Wake time should be no later than 7:30 am with a nap starting between 12-1 pm and ending around 2:30-3 pm. Your two year old needs 1-2 hours of daytime sleep. Keep bedtime between 7-7:30 pm but earlier if they have a short nap.
- Set firm and kind limits at bedtime: Don’t overreact if your child protests bedtime. This can unintentionally reinforce the behavior. Be confident in your boundaries and validate their feelings: “I hear you. You wish it wasn’t bedtime. I love spending time with you too and we will come back together in the morning.” Keep it simple and loving. Consistent boundaries help kids feel safe even if they’re not happy about it at the moment.
- Don’t start habits you don’t want to stick with: If you don’t want to lay with your 2 year old until they fall asleep in the long term don’t start now. If you’re not OK with them sleeping in your bed, don’t start now. Habits like these tend to stick around a lot longer than we’d like and it’s easier to not start them at all. Trust me.
- Make a plan: If the regression hasn’t gotten any better after a few weeks, it’s time to make a plan. Decide exactly how to respond at bedtime and during night wakings. Check out my Sleep Training 101 blog for guidance on sleep training methods and if you need help creating a plan, reach out. I’m here for ya!
Using these tips will undoubtedly help your family get through the 2 year old sleep regression! Before you know it, they’ll be back to sleeping 11 hours seamlessly through the night!