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Read some of our great articles on a range of parenting topics from sleeping to teething. We publish new blog posts regularly and feature a number of baby sleep experts and their top tips

The two year sleep regression: what you need to know

The Two Year Sleep Regression: What You Need to Know

Learn how to cope with patches of bad sleep when your toddler hits this milestone.

You may not have heard about the two year sleep regression. It occurs just as you have managed to establish a good and reliable sleep pattern for your baby (teething and illness allowing). As with most things when it comes to kids, the two year sleep regression may or may not affect your child but if it does, here is a very quick guide to how it can affect your toddler’s sleep patterns.

There Are Many Reasons Why Your Two Year Old Stops Sleeping Well...

Even though it can be easier once your child hits the two-year mark, as they are better able to communicate with you, they can still cause you confusion and anxiety. They may have been sleeping well up to this point, or they may have had disturbed sleep patterns. Either way, at 24 months, there are likely to be a few more reasons why they wake at night. These are the main culprits:

  • Separation Anxiety: Around the age of two, children suddenly start to realise that there are real dangers in the world. So, they start to experience the fear of being left alone and the fear of your never returning. They may also fear the dark and may even fear that they are missing out on something. These can all contribute towards the two year sleep regression. Try to be consistent with your toddler - reassure them as much as you can and be patient. This will pass, eventually.
  • Having Dropped Some, or All, of their Naps: Despite the experts agreeing that most three- to four-year-olds still need a daytime nap, many two-year-olds take matters into their own hands and decide to veto it altogether. This can result in being over-tired and then waking up at night. If your toddler refuses to nap, try encouraging some quiet time instead, so that they at least rest during the day.
  • Transitions: This is a time for lots of change, all of which can affect sleep. Potty training, moving from a cot to a bed, perhaps welcoming a new baby or starting nursery. All of these are major events for your little one and they are bound to affect sleep. Read more on potty training here, and moving to a new bed here.
  • Nightmares: Now that your toddler is a little older and a lot more aware of the world around them, nightmares can be an issue for some. Read more on how to tackle them here.

Any of these factors combined will result in less sleep for you and your toddler. So how do you spot the two year sleep regression?

The Two Year Sleep Regression: What You Need to Know

Your Toddler Needs More Awake Time Now

At this age, your toddler will need more time awake. When they are awake, the chances are high that much of that time is spent playing at full speed. So, although they are awake for longer, they are using up a lot more of energy, often resulting in feeling rather over-tired at the end of the day. They may resist going to bed, as they still think there is fun to be had.

Despite being very tired (and probably cranky) your toddler is a strong-willed individual who will tell you in no uncertain terms that they do NOT want to go to sleep, thank you very much. So, it’s important to know how much sleep they really need.

At 24 months, your child needs 12 hours of sleep per day; any less and they will be over-tired.

So, if your two-year-old suddenly starts to fight bedtime, wakes in the night after previously sleeping through and suddenly decides to drop naps, then the two-year sleep regression could be the culprit.

How To Cope

The best thing that you can do with the two year sleep regression is to ride it out. Most phases are just that - a phase, that shall pass soon. Do what you can to remain consistent and confident in your approach to the regression, make sure you have a great bedtime routine (and a mini version of the routine for nap times) and remember that you are an amazing parent. Good luck!

Further Reading:

How Teething Leads to Sleep Regression
Toddlers and Sleep
How Long Should My Baby Sleep?

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