2 Year Old Sleep Regression: What Happens To Toddler Sleep Around 2 Years Old?

2 year old sleep regression, toddler sleep regression, 2 year sleep regression
If you’ve got a 2 year old and sleep seems to have suddenly turned into a nightmare, then you are not alone! There is so much going on with our toddlers around this age that can make sleep feel feel tricky and pretty challenging at times!

In this guide we’re going to walk through what the 2 year old sleep regression is, and what are the signs that your toddler is going through it.

Is There a Sleep Regression at Two Years Old?

Let’s start by talking about what we mean when we talk about the ‘two year sleep regression’.

So first of all, the term regression is a little bit misleading. The reason I say that is because no one really regresses with their sleep (the only sleep regression I officially recognise is the 4 month sleep regression). We don’t forget how to sleep, or lose the skill, that’s not what happens with little ones, but there’s key moments in their development that can affect sleep.

Strictly speaking, these happen at different times for each child. And also let’s not forget, there are external factors that can also influence sleep, like going on holiday, starting nursery, a new sibling arriving, illness, and teething just to name a few!

There’s also lots of developmental change happening too, so sometimes we’ll find around the age of two years, sleep can go a bit crazy.

You can feel like it’s all fallen apart when maybe you had quite a good sleeper already or maybe sleep wasn’t going so well already and it’s just got even worse.

baby standing up in cot. moving baby or toddler to their own room, how to move baby into their own room, moving baby into nursery

What are the Signs of the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression?

What are the common changes in sleep we see around 2 years of age? You might find that your once fairly good sleeper is now not sleeping well in a variety of ways.

They may start waking more in the night, and these wake-ups might be longer and you find it harder to settle them back to sleep.

Bedtimes can become more of battleground than a relaxing routine. They might refuse to go to bed, use lots of stalling tactics (“one more story” and “I need another drink” are common ones!), or take a long time to settle to sleep.

Naps can also go off track. They might be refusing the nap, or your nap timings start to go out the window and the day/bedtime becomes a muddle.

If they are already in a bed, they might be in and out of it through the evening or in the middle of the night.

Another common thing we see with sleep around this age is they might need you more than usual – perhaps they are asking you to stay with them while they fall asleep, or need you to lie with them in the night when they haven’t before. 

All these things are really, really common with toddlers, so you are certainly not alone!

5 signs of a sleep regression at 2 years old, signs of the two year old sleep regression

What Causes the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression? And What Can You Do To Help?

So what are the common causes for this “sleep regression”? There is a whole lot going on with our 2 year olds, a lot of which can impact on sleep.

Changing Sleep Needs

It is really important to keep up with your toddler’s sleep needs and making sure that their routine changes as their sleep needs change too.

There is only so much sleep that one person, one little person in this case, can have in 24 hours. At this age, sleep is going to likely be made up of one nap and then the sleep they have during the night.

If their nap is longer than they currently need then it will affect night time sleep. They might be ready for a shorter nap, or to drop their nap completely. 

If the balance of day and night sleep isn’t right for their current sleep needs, then bedtimes can become challenging, split nights or false starts can creep in, or morning wake-ups start to become earlier

I know many parents worry about capping naps, or dread when the nap drops completely. I really missed my kids lunchtime naps when they dropped them, as it was my chance to recharge and get stuff done, so I understand the feeling all too well! 

But, the time will come when their nap needs change and it’s not all bad news. It can be freeing to no longer need to fit a nap into your day, and a good night’s sleep is always welcome too!

Another common ‘issue’ that can impact sleep is a too early bedtime. As our toddlers grow and develop, they can start to need a little less sleep at night and be able to stay awake for longer during the day. If they aren’t ready for bed at their bedtime then it can become very challenging to settle them down to sleep. 

This can mean that your bedtime routine becomes really long, and the stalling tactics start to appear. It is very easy to get frustrated (you and them!) and for you to start changing your boundaries around bedtime doing things you don’t normally do. This can, in some cases, then have a knock on effect on what they expect from you during the night too. 

I speak to parents about their toddler’s sleep all the time, and it is really common to hear that they have started to reintroduce bottles of milk at bedtime, or sit in their little ones room for an age while they fall asleep, or end up with a list of new tasks and rituals that now need to be done before bedtime such as reading 15 books and rearranging rows of stuffed toys before their toddler will fall asleep.  

A visual guide for their bedtime routine can be really helpful, to show your toddler what steps lead up to bedtime and give a clear view of what they can expect their routine to look like.

Download Your Free Printable Bedtime Routine

Download Your Free Printable Bedtime Routine

Moving Into a Bed Too Early

Another common cause of problems around bedtime with toddlers is moving them to a bed too early.

It can be quite tricky for younger toddlers to understand the concept of staying in bed. They don’t have great impulse control and sometimes when sleep doesn’t feel great, parents wonder it if maybe the solution is that they don’t like their cots, so they move them into a bed and it can make matters worse. 

This isn’t the case for everyone, for some moving into a bed can be a positive change. But generally speaking, if you’re having issues around sleep then we want to get to the bottom of what is causing the issues, and moving to a bed will rarely be an easy fix.

You do not need to rush to move your toddler into a bed, I always say to hang on to the cot for as long as possible. You don’t need to move them out of their cot unless they’ve outgrown it or they’re climbing out of it. 

We cover knowing when and how to transition your toddler from their cot to a bed, as well lots of other guides to your toddler’s sleep, in our 1.5-4 Year Sleep Course. 

Sleep Success Course:
1.5 to 4 Years

Separation Anxiety and Time for Connection

With so much going on in their busy lives, your toddler may need some more reassurance and connection time with you. This can often be noticeable at bedtime, whilst they have your undivided attention and before they are separated from you for the night.

They enjoy spending time with you and being connected to you which can manifest itself in resisting bedtime and delaying falling asleep.

Separation anxiety can also be a common experience around this age. Separation anxiety can exhibit itself in a few different ways, usually; periods of being clingy, getting upset when you are out of sight, a strong preference for one parent, tears when you leave them at nursery/with family, sleep resistance or calling for you during the night. 

If can be really helpful to add in some connection time before your bedtime routine, or at any point in the day you can plan it in..

Factor in a bit of one-to-one time if you can before your bedtime routine. Put the screens away and find an activity you can do together, just be you and your toddler together. Let them take the lead and decide what you do together and lead the play. Or if the weather is nice, you go for a walk, or make an indoor obstacle course or just enjoy a cuddle, sing some songs, do some yoga – find something that your little one enjoys with you.

There’s no right or wrong here, but just spending some quality one-on-one time can really help with bedtime battles.  There will often be this last request that happens just before they go to bed or you’re saying goodnight and they keep coming up with them. So they want a drink of water, they need to use the toilet. They want one more story or there’s a certain toy that they want. Make sure you cover off all of those requests before you say goodnight because then you’re setting yourself up for more chance of getting out of that room successfully. 

2 year old sleep regression, connection time with toddler, bedtime routine with toddler

Sleep and Toddler Behaviour

As a toddler parent, you’ll know all too well that your little one is going through some big changes. They will be learning new skills daily, and are likely to be keeping you on your toes by testing boundaries and investigating the exciting world around them.

Part of being a toddler is learning how the world around them works, and testing what they can and can’t do.

This can play out in lots of ways, including resisting bedtime, refusing their nap or some middle of the night fun and games!

Toddler behaviour is such an interesting and diverse topic, we have our Toddler Behaviour course which is designed to help you really understand what is going on with your toddler and gives you some real-life practical solutions to make the more chaotic moments feel calmer and to help you connect with your toddler. You get to keep it forever, so it can be by your side through all the toddler years!

Toddler Behaviour Course

Rushed Bedtime Routine

We’ve all been there, you’ve rushed in from work or you are rushing around to tidy up in the evening and then their bedtime routine feels hurried.

After a long day with our toddler’s, some time alone in the evening beckons and we can be really keen to get bedtime moving! They can sense if they are being rushed and they can push back and make bedtime even later. 

The routine does not need to be long, in fact it isn’t helpful for a bedtime routine to be really long and drawn out. But we can still make it feel unhurried and have some predictable steps that lead up to bedtime with clear boundaries in place so they know what to expect.

Milestones and Big Changes

Just like us, when our toddler’s are going through something new in their lives it can temporarily impact on sleep.

A new sibling arriving, starting childcare, potty training, moving to a bed or other big developmental milestones can all lead to some unsettled sleep and resistance to naps and bedtime. 

Make time to connect with them, talk to them about what they are experiencing and be patient with them as the navigate the changes going on around them. We can be supportive and loving whilst still keeping boundaries around sleep and bedtime. In fact, boundaries can be even more important during these times as it gives them some consistency and predictability in and amongst the other changes that might be happening in their lives.

Nightmares and Fears

Fears about the dark, or nightmares, can start to appear around this age which can make bedtimes feel challenging for little ones and lead to some disturbed nights. 

You can use a nightlight if your toddler starts to say they are scared of the dark – opt for a red-based light as they can be less impactful on sleep than blue-based lights.

If they wake from a nightmare, then give them comfort and reassurance to help them settle back to sleep. 

Talking to them during the day about their nightmare can be helpful and gives them a chance to work through their feelings and worries. Offer lots of reassurance that you are always there for them and that the nightmare wasn’t real.

How Long Does the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression Last?

As we’ve covered earlier in this blog, there isn’t a set age that a ‘regression’ in sleep happens. There are so many factors that can impact sleep at this age. What your toddler is experiencing and how you respond to these changes in sleep will all contribute to how long their sleep goes off track for.

Take some time to look at what might be going on with their sleep, and what they are going through at the moment and you can make some changes to see how they respond.

And if you’d like a helping hand to guide you through, then we are here to help. Our Toddler Sleep course and Toddler Behaviour courses have helped thousands  of families navigate the toddler years. You can also check out our Ultimate Toddler course bundle which also includes Potty Training! We also offer 1:1 sleep consultations if you would like to speak with a member of our team for support.

Ready For Better Sleep?

Transform your toddler’s sleep and enjoy calm bedtimes, stress-free naps and restful nights with our award-winning toddler sleep course.

Ready For Better Sleep?

Transform your toddler’s sleep and enjoy calm bedtimes, stress-free naps and restful nights with our award-winning toddler sleep course.