Toddler Sleep Regression: Why It Happens & What You Can Do

Toddler Sleep Regression: Why It Happens & What You Can Do

Picture this: you’ve got your toddler peacefully to sleep.

It took a few months for you to establish a healthy bedtime routine for your babe, and you’re ready to start up Netflix and enjoy your evening.

An hour later, you hear your toddler start to cry.

Why is your toddler waking up?

Toddler sleep regression? Maybe.

In this article: 📝

  • What is a toddler sleep regression?
  • Why does toddler sleep regression happen?
  • When can toddler regressions happen?
  • How to deal with toddler sleep regressions

What is a toddler sleep regression?

First off, toddler sleep progressions are a totally normal part of toddler development.

In fact, many baby and toddler sleep experts refer to them as developmental progressions, rather than regressions.

And we’re sorry to burst your bubble, but they can happen several times during toddlerhood.

No matter how firm your bedtime routine may be, there’s always a chance that a toddler sleep regression may happen.

It’s because they’re still growing ‒ physically, emotionally, and mentally ‒ and this growth can mess up their sleep patterns.

But the good thing is that they’re often temporary.

So this, too, shall pass, mama.

Why does toddler sleep regression happen?

The main reason for toddler sleep regression is developmental growth.

When your child is making leaps and bounds during the day, their minds and bodies are experiencing huge changes.

Natural developmental changes like separation anxiety and teething could be the culprit, along with the growth in monthly milestones.

There can be other reasons for interrupted sleep ‒ nightmares, loud noises in the night, needing the bathroom ‒ sometimes, the same sorts of things that wake us up in the night.

But when a toddler wakes up in the middle of the night, it can be a scary experience, especially if they’ve woken up from a dream or they’re feeling anxious.


When can toddler regressions happen?

Sleep regressions in toddlers typically happen around 10 to 12 months, 18 months, 2 years, and 3 years.

Each sleep regression period is usually linked to a developmental progression (although, of course, this is happening all the time, but these are more major milestones).

Is there a sleep regression at 10-12 months old?

Yes, a sleep regression (developmental progression) at around 10-12 months can happen.

While it’s a little early for toddler sleep regression, your babe is likely learning to crawl, cruise, or walk at this age.

Around 10-12 months, you might also notice your babe’s canine teeth peeking through their gums, which can be pretty uncomfortable for them.

Using a pain reliever may be helpful, along with giving baby a cool teether to relieve their gums.

At 10 to 12 months, some babies are dropping from two naps down to one.

This can throw a baby’s sleep cycle off as well.

Is there a sleep regression at 18 months old?

Yes ‒ an 18-month toddler sleep regression is something many mamas experience.

A newfound sense of independence can drive this regression.

Your toddler may be realizing that they have the power to say “no” to your requests and get their own way ‒ great (!)

Toddler sleep regression can also be triggered by physical growth spurts.

Another reason at this age could be that your toddler’s hungry, as their eating and feeding needs change.

Offering some milk (formula, breast, or whatever milk they prefer) before bedtime, so they have some nutrition to help them get through the night.

Is there a sleep regression at 2 years old?

Yes, toddler sleep regressions at 2 years old are pretty common.

Most toddlers have dropped their afternoon naps by now.

2-year-olds may be cranky during the day because they are resisting bedtime and falling asleep late.

They could also be waking up too early ‒ it’s a delicate balance!

A 2-year-old needs about 12 hours of sleep, down from 16 hours as a newborn.

Separation anxiety can come up again around this age, too.

By this time, your toddler understands that you don’t just disappear when you leave the room.

They are aware that you are awake (or asleep) in the house somewhere without them, and they want to be part of what you’re doing.

Serious FOMO.

Many toddlers, especially if they have a new sibling at home or on the way, are moving to their “big girl” or “big boy” beds at this age.

Moving from a crib to a toddler bed is a big adjustment, and it can take quite a bit of convincing to get your toddler to stay in bed.

So there are a few factors with toddler sleep regression at 2 years old, but it’s not all doom and gloom!

Even if your toddler won’t consider going to sleep, “rest time” in their room is a good idea.

Put a few safe toys or a cloth book in the crib or toddler bed with them and let them have some time to themselves.

They may even fall asleep on their own!

Is there a 3-year sleep regression?

Yes ‒ if your 3-year-old is going through a sleep regression, you’re certainly not alone.

3-year-olds are making many huge developmental strides, including potty training and making friends.

Toddlers are also beginning to recognize the feeling of a full bladder or having to poop in the middle of the night, and they may or may not want to use their diaper or training pants.

When you gotta go, you gotta go.

Yet another reason could be that your 3-year-old’s imagination is running away with them.

They may begin to be afraid of monsters or start having nightmares ‒ while there can sometimes be underlying reasons for these, they are also totally normal, the ways toddlers’ minds process the world around them.

Their daytime independence, when they often run away from their caregivers, can result in increased clinginess at night.

Talking with children about their fears in the light of day may help here, and help them to understand the benefits of a good night’s sleep.

How to deal with toddler sleep regressions

So now we know more about toddler sleep regressions and why they happen, what can we do to help ease them back into a more peaceful, restful sleep schedule?

After all, you both need your sleep!

Here are our top tips on how to deal with toddler sleep regressions:

  • Establish a solid bedtime routine. Your toddler needs to know that even if they have trouble sleeping, they can rely on your calming, stable routine. A nice warm bath, fresh pajamas, going to the potty, having some milk, reading a book, and taking a few slow breaths are great habits to get into to help them drift off.
  • Adjust their nap schedule. One of the simplest ways to reduce sleep regression is to make sure that naps are not too long and are taken earlier in the day. Taking a nap too close to bedtime can be a cause for interrupted nighttime sleep, especially around 2-3 years old.
  • Play some white noise. Getting a white noise machine can be a huge help for nighttime noises like a new baby. It can also help to block out the sounds of television or older siblings playing.
  • Try not to let your toddler into bed (unless this is a long-term solution). If you don’t want your child to co-sleep, you may have to be gentle but firm about this. Some toddlers feel they need a parent to stay in the room with them while they fall asleep. Gradually work from sitting close to their bed to sitting in a chair in the room further away, and keep reassuring them verbally that they will be okay.
  • Keep calm and carry on! The most important thing to remember is that you need to handle these changes calmly and with compassion for your toddler’s needs ‒ yep, even tantrums. We get it ‒ going through a sleep regression ‒ at any age ‒ can be frustrating for both of you, especially when you don’t get the sleep you need, either. But if you react with irritation, your toddler may be even less likely to come out of their sleep regression.

We know it can be tough right now.

You’re exhausted. You’re running on fumes. And your toddler’s sleep schedule is a hot mess.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Sleep regressions are a normal part of toddlerhood.

And here’s the good news: sleep regressions don’t last forever.

You can get through this, together.

Sweet dreams, mama!

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