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How to Make It Through the 2-Year Sleep Regression

Being a 2 year old isn’t easy, being the parent of a 2 year old is even harder. I love the meme that shows a toddler and says “What ails you my little free loader?” 

 As your baby becomes a toddler they will push boundaries in several areas, including eating, potty training, and sleep. This is totally normal. They are trying to figure out how the world works, where they fit, what they can get away with and how serious you are about the things you say. Your job as a parent is to remain calm, consistent, and set age-appropriate boundaries to set your family up for success and help your little one feel safe.

Recognizing the 2-Year Sleep Regression

A sleep regression is tricky, they often hit out of nowhere and leave parents asking questions. Are they sick? Do they need something? If your child has been sleeping well and is suddenly not sleeping well they may be experiencing a regression.

 Common signs include:

  1. Night Waking: Your toddler may start waking up multiple times during the night, despite previously sleeping through the night.
  2. Early Morning Waking: They might wake up much earlier than usual and have trouble going back to sleep. Like before 6 am early.
  3. Bedtime Resistance: Your toddler may refuse to go to bed, stall, or throw tantrums when it’s time to sleep.

These behaviors can be frustrating. By the end of the day we just want to be done parenting for a while. I promise this is normal and won’t last forever. 

Why Does the 2-Year Sleep Regression Happen?

Several factors contribute to the 2-year sleep regression:

  1. Developmental Milestones: At this age, toddlers are busy busy busy developing language, motor skills, and cognitive abilities. All of these new skills and input can disrupt sleep. Their brain is literally too busy. 
  2. Increased Independence: Toddlers begin to assert their independence, often testing boundaries, including those around sleep.
  3. Separation Anxiety: Many toddlers experience heightened separation anxiety around this age, which can make bedtime, daycare and date night challenging.
  4. Changes in Routine: Transitions such as moving from a crib to a bed, starting daycare, or the arrival of a new sibling can also impact sleep.

Managing the 2-Year Sleep Regression

While the 2-year sleep regression typically lasts a few weeks, there are strategies you can employ to manage it effectively:

  1. Stay Consistent: Even though it feels messy, stay the course. Keep the bedtime routine the same and encourage structure in your day.
  2. Set Clear Boundaries: Toddlers want independence but they don’t have the cognitive ability to handle too much at once. Your job is to set clear boundaries for behavior so they know what is expected of them.
  3. Provide Comfort: They love and trust you, we want to facilitate that. Be there for them, make eye contact and set aside specific time to play on their level.
  4. Be Patient: Understand that this phase is temporary. Stay calm and patient, even during difficult nights.

Sample Daily Schedule

Maintaining a consistent daily schedule can help regulate your toddler’s sleep patterns. Here’s a sample schedule for a 2-year-old:

  • 7:00 AM: Wake up
  • 7:30 AM: Breakfast
  • 9:30 AM: Snack
  • 12:00 PM: Lunch
  • 12:30 PM – 2:00/2:30 PM: Nap
  • 2:30 PM: Snack
  • 6:00 PM: Dinner
  • 7:30 PM: Bedtime

Additional Challenges During the 2-Year Sleep Regression

I tell all of my private coaching clients to expect pushback in 3 key areas. Food (picky eating, refusing to eat) potty training (lack of interest or a regression) and sleep (fighting bedtime, waking up early, refusing to nap). These behaviors are part of their development and boundary testing. Here are some tips for handling these challenges:


  • Offer Choices: Give your toddler healthy options to choose from to encourage independence while ensuring they get proper nutrition.
  • Stay Calm: Avoid turning mealtimes into battles. Offer food without pressure and allow your toddler to decide how much to eat.

Potty Training

  • Be Patient: Potty training regression is common. Stay patient and avoid pressuring your toddler.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Use praise and rewards to encourage successful potty use.

When to Seek Help

If the sleep regression lasts more than a few weeks or your toddler’s sleep continues to deteriorate, it might be time to seek professional help. A sleep consultant (like me!) can provide personalized guidance and support to help your family get back on track.For more tips and strategies, check out my free download on preventing bedtime battles available on my free resources page. Remember, staying calm, consistent, and patient is essential but I know it’s difficult. Take time for yourself, ask for help, you are doing a great job.

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