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Toddler Sleep Regression: What It Is And How To Handle It

Young kid crawling out of a cib

It's 10:30 p.m., and your toddler is bouncing off the walls. Usually, they are asleep long before now. But they’ve been staying up later than normal the last few days and then waking up at night. Is it the dreaded toddler sleep regression you've heard so much about?

It could be. To help you get to the bottom of it, we've put together this guide on everything you need to know about toddler sleep regressions so you and your little one can get the rest you need.

Table Of Contents

What’s A Toddler Sleep Regression?

toddler sleep regression

Like a baby sleep regression, toddlers having trouble sleeping is pretty common and not something to fret about. These regressions often show up after they’ve been sleeping well and suddenly start having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Since it happens so suddenly, it can be confusing and frustrating for parents, especially when you were just starting to get used to getting a good night's sleep yourself!

While trouble sleeping can happen at any age, toddler sleep regressions typically occur around 18 months, two years, or four years. That means you may experience more than one regression as your toddler grows and develops.

Why Isn’t Your Toddler Sleeping?

There are a few reasons why your toddler might start having trouble sleeping. But, most of the time, it's because they're going through a significant developmental milestone that affects their sleep.

For example, the 18-month sleep regression is often caused by your toddler becoming more independent. They're starting to walk and talk and want to do everything themselves.

This newfound independence can be exciting for them (and for you!), but it can also make it harder for them to settle down at night.

Other common causes of toddler sleep regressions include teething, illness, travel, and changes in routine. Having a new baby can also trigger sleep problems as your little one tries to adjust to the new family dynamic.

It's also worth noting that some toddlers never experience an actual sleep regression. So if your toddler has always been a light sleeper or has never slept through the night, it's probably just their natural sleep pattern and not a regression.

In that case, a Newton Sleep Consultation might help them develop better sleeping habits.

How Long Does A Toddler Sleep Regression Last?

kid going through toddler sleep regression

The good news is that sleep regressions don't last forever. In most cases, they only last for a few weeks as your toddler adjusts to their new stage of development. However, some can last for a few months.

For instance, if they are going through a growth spurt or teething, those sleep regressions might last a little longer since they're physical changes that can be uncomfortable.

However, they will eventually outgrow these aches and pains and get back to sleeping through the night.

8 Tips To Promote Better Toddler Sleep

If your toddler is going through a sleep regression, there are a few things you can do to help them (and yourself!) get through it.

1) Implement A Bedtime Routine

Parents doing a bedtime routine of reading to help with toddler sleep regression

One of the best ways to help your toddler sleep better is to establish a bedtime routine. This routine should be short and sweet, lasting around 30 minutes.

Doing the same thing every night will signal your toddler that it's time to go to bed and make it easier for them to fall asleep. Keep their bedtime routine simple for best results.

It should include activities that help them wind down for the night, like reading a book together or bathing them with lavender soap.

2) Ensure A Safe And Comfortable Sleep Environment

For your toddler to sleep well, their sleep environment must be safe and comfortable. Start by ensuring their crib or bed is in a quiet, dark room. If their room is too bright, try using blackout curtains or investing in a nightlight.

Another important factor in creating a comfortable sleep environment is selecting the right mattress for your toddler. For example, one that’s too soft can cause them to wake up with back pain, while a too-firm bed can be uncomfortable.

The Newton Waterproof Crib Mattress is the perfect option for toddlers. The 3D quilted cloud cover is soft, helping your child rest comfortably. In addition, it's 100% breathable so they won't overheat during the night.

Once you know their mattress isn’t a problem, try introducing a toddler pillow or a cozy blanket to your child's bed. While you don't want to put anything like that into a baby's bed, your toddler is growing up.

They might feel more comfortable with a pillow or blanket to snuggle with at night. It's considered a safe sleep practice for children after their first birthday.

3) Limit Screen Time Right Before Bed

We know it can be tempting to let your toddler watch TV or play on your phone before bed, but screens are one of the worst things you can do for their sleep.

The blue light from screens suppresses melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. This is why using screens right before bed can make it harder to fall asleep.

Instead of letting your toddler have screen time before bed, try reading them a book or playing a quiet game together.

4) Rule Out Any Medical Problems

Child at the doctors

Sometimes, physical problems can cause toddler sleep regressions. For example, if your child is cutting molars, they might wake up more at night because their mouth hurts. But teething isn't the only medical problem that can cause sleep problems.

Allergies, autism, colds, and other conditions can all lead to restless nights for your toddler.
If you're concerned that there might be a medical problem causing their sleep regression, it's best to talk to their doctor.

They can help rule out any physical problems and give you some tips on how to help your toddler sleep better.

5) Stay Calm When Your Child Wakes

While you're up with your child, avoid displaying negative emotions, like anger or exasperation. If they sense you’re upset, it will only make them more worried and be more challenging for them to fall asleep.

Instead, stay calm. And do your best to keep the environment quiet so it doesn't overstimulate them. This means keeping the lights low and speaking in a soft voice.

If your child is old enough, try explaining what's going on. For example, you could say, "I know you're upset because you had a bad dream, but it's OK. I'm here with you, and it's safe for you to go back to sleep."

Reassuring your child will help them feel better and help them get back to sleep more quickly.

6) Reevaluate Your Child’s Bedtime

As your child grows, their bedtime naturally changes. As they go through growth spurts, they’ll need more sleep and may need to go to bed a bit earlier.

It could also be that your toddler's current bedtime is too late, so they're getting overtired waiting for it to arrive. Again, this feeling can make it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

If you think your child’s bedtime is the problem, try moving it up by 15-30 minutes and see if that helps. If they’re still having trouble sleeping, you might need to make their bedtime even earlier.

On the other hand, some toddlers benefit from a slightly later bedtime. If your child is napping well during the day and doesn't seem overly tired at their current bedtime, you could try moving it back 15-30 minutes at a time to see if that helps them fall asleep more easily.

7) Adjust Nap Time

Toddlers don't need to nap as much as they did when they were infants. In fact, most toddlers only need one nap a day.

If your child is still taking two naps and having trouble sleeping at night, it might be time to switch their schedule. Just know that this could lead to short-term crankiness as they adjust.

If they’re already down to one nap and still having trouble sleeping, it might be that their nap is too late in the day. A late afternoon rest can make it harder for your toddler to fall asleep at night. Try moving up naptime by an hour or so to see if that helps them sleep better at night.

8) Remember It’s Only Temporary

When you're in the middle of a toddler sleep regression, it can feel like it will never end. But the good news is it always does.

In the meantime, just do your best to get through it. Take some deep breaths, remember that it's only temporary, and know that you'll both be sleeping better before you know it.

Help Your Toddler Catch Some ZZZs

baby laying in crib

Toddler sleep regression is a normal, albeit frustrating, part of child development.

The tips above can help you survive it. But, if you’ve tried them all and your child still has trouble sleeping, it might be time for professional help.

Schedule a 30-minute personalized, virtual Newton Sleep Consultation with a Tot Squad Trusted Provider. They can help you create a customized sleep plan for your toddler so everyone in the family sleeps better.

No matter what, keep loving on your little one and supporting them as they navigate these new, big milestones!