Just when you think you finally have this sleep thing down with your toddler, you find out that there is such a thing as a 2 year old sleep regression.
In this post, we will look at some common causes of the 2 year old sleep regression and some of the ways that you can choose to deal with it. Of course, the options provided are by no means exhaustive but they are great starting points and one of them may be an answer to your problems!
5 Causes of the 2 Year Sleep regression
- Fear of missing out
Your toddler is going through multiple dveelopmental changes around this time. These changes are making them realize all the things that they are capable of physically and mentally. New ways they can move their bodies and new words and phrases that they can speak. They are discovering new ways of using their voices even. There are just too many exciting new things to get up to. How could they possibly sleep? They would rather stay awake and use their new skills.
2. Separation anxiety
What is separation anxiety? Separation anxiety is when a person has a fear of being away from a specific person or people.
At the age of 2, it is very common to discover that your toddler has suddenly become afraid to sleep alone. There is nothing strange, needy or unusual about a 2 year old wanting to be around their parents all the time. It is perfectly normal. It does not stop at bedtime either. Night time sleep is a long stretch of time for them to be “away” from you if they want to be aware of you being right next to them. You may find as a parent that your toddler wants to know that you are next to them even at bedtime.
3. Situational changes
This could be anything from a new family member, to a house move to the loss of a family member. Any of these causes a shift in what is your toddler’s “normal” life. Some toddlers are more sensitive to changes like this than others are. Their perception of how life has been and should be until that point changes and while they try to adjust to those changes, they may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
The discomfort that teething brings on is one that adults can only begin to imagine. We cannot relate to how it must feel for such tender gums to have teeth pushing through. Around 2 years old, both the top and bottom second molars start to come out. These are large teeth and so may be especially painful.
Certainly, some toddlers will show no symptoms of teething at all but others will be mmore sensitive to it and it may affect their sleep.
5. Potty training
If you choose to start potty training around the 2 year mark or a little later into it, you might find that it affects their sleep. Your toddler will be more conscious, hopefully, of when it is that they need to use the toilet and that may interrupt their usual process of falling asleep or wake them up from sleep. If and when they have accidents during sleep as well, those are bound to affect their sleep.
Points to note…
It is not unusual for your two-year old to attempt to drop their nap in addition to struggling to sleep at night. This is all part of the 2 year old sleep regression experience. It does not mean that they have dropped their nap for good.
Even though your 2 year old’s sleep schedule seems to be completely out of the window, it is worth it to remember that 2 year olds typically need around 12-14 hours every day. Most toddlers will continue to need their naps all the way up to around age 6. Be patient with them and continue to give them the opportunity to nap.
Cry it out
If you read this site frequently enough, you might notice that I have so far not written anything about the cry it out method. That is because I have never tried it before and do not intend to. I never attempted it when my toddler was a baby because I knew my head and ears would not be able to handle her screams for long enough. I did not bother to try. I do not intend to try it in the future because I also know that my heart probably won’t be able to handle it either.
When it comes to the 2 year old sleep regression, you might be tempted to try the cry it out method. I can see why it would be an appealing option if you tried it in the past and it brought about great sleep for your entire family because your baby was finally sleeping well and independently.
Hearing other moms’ experiences with using the cry it out method during the 2 year old sleep regression shows that it might not be the best option though. This is because not only does it lead to your toddler crying themselves into a never-ending frenzy but it also makes yoru toddler feel as though you will not make yourself available for them when they need you.
Try the following solutions instead.
4 Ways to address your 2 year old’s sleep regression
- Recognize their fears
If you are able to identify the cause of your 2 year old not wanting to sleep or waking up frequently, voice it out. Let them know that you understand what is happening to them and explain to them why it is happening. Assure them that though you may not be lying right next to them, you are present and they do not need to be afraid.
- A soothing and enjoyable bedtime routine
Establish a bedtime routine that they can look forward to. Let them think of their bedtime routine as a fun (not too much fun!), relaxing prelude to sleep. You could try any number of things from playing relaxing music to a warm bath followed by a massage or a combination of those.
- Be consistent
As with the point above about naps, it pays to be consistent when it comes to the 2 year old sleep regression. Continue to offer your toddler naps at the same time. Keep up with whichever bedtime routine you choose for a long period of time. Particularly if you think their sleep regression is being worsened by situational changes, it is vital that you keep their sleep or night time routine consistent.
- Change their sleeping situation
It is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every toddler. Your two-year old might need a change in one aspect of their night time routine in order to sleep soundly and easily. Changing where the sleep may be just what they need.
For us, our two-year old did not start to sleep soundly through the night until we moved her to her “big girl bed” and in her own room. Contrary to what we imagined, sleeping on her own bed in her own room helped her sleep better with no interruptions. For you, the reverse may work, moving your toddler’s bed closer to yours or into your room might mean better sleep for them and therefore, for the entire family. That leads to another topic for another day on parenting styles!
Do you think your toddler is experiencing the 2 year sleep regression? How are you handling it?
If you have already gone through the 2 year sleep regression, how did you handle it?