Whether you're experiencing it firsthand or you've just heard it discussed as an old wives' tale, sleep regression in toddlers is indeed real. Most parents think if they can get over the hurdle of the whole "sleepless nights with a newborn" stage, it'll be smoothing sailing from then on out. But that's not the case for many, so don't worry, you're definitely not alone in this challenging phase. Whether you're a season vet or a first-time parent, there are some crucial things to know about sleep regression in toddlers.
If you're anything like me, I was ready to go full-on Britney Spears car-bashing crazy when my son seemed incapable of sleeping through the night or had an apocalyptic tantrum every time I so much as mentioned "bedtime." Sleep regression in your toddler can definitely be a blow to your parenting self-esteem. It can even cause tension and become a blame game scenario between you and your partner (like it did for me).
Thankfully it doesn't have to be that way. A little knowledge can go a long way in the realm of preparation an quelling stress when it comes to handling your toddler's issues with sleep. So check out the top things to know about sleep regression in toddlers.
1. It's Normal
This is probably one of, if not the most, important thing every parent or caregiver should know about sleep regression in toddlers: it's completely normal. According to the consultants at The Baby Sleep Site, sleep regressions are temporary, albeit frustrating, and very common in toddlers. Before you start beating yourself up about it, remember that it happens to everyone.
2. Check Their Surroundings
Sometimes your toddler's sleep regression is the result of an outside issue that's easily fixable. Deborah Lin-Dyken, a pediatric sleep disorder expert, told Parents that you should, "step back and evaluate the situation." Has something in your baby's environment been altered? Perhaps the temperature has dropped or the new neighbor's dog barks in the middle of the night. Take a look and see what, if anything has changed and how to fix it.
3. The Boogeyman May Be To Blame
Everyone has nightmares, right? Sure, but the difference is some toddlers experience sleep regression because they can't comprehend bad dreams. According to the community organization Zero To Three, "children do not fully understand the difference between fantasy and reality yet, which can lead to an increase in nightmares."
4. They're Asserting Independence
One of the major developmental parts of the toddler years is that your little baby is becoming a little person, full of their own ideas and opinions. So you child's sleep regression could be them asserting their independence, no matter how young they may be. The experts at Parents said that sleep is one of the few areas a toddler can exert power by refusing to go to or stay asleep.
5. Their Sleep Needs Are Changing
Though you may have gotten in the habit of putting your child down during the day, your toddler may not need naps, which could dirupt their sleep cycle. Dr. Koa Whittingham, a developmental and clinical psychologist, told Essential Baby, "you may need to cut back on day sleeps or put them to bed a little later," since toddlers need less sleep than infants.
6. Be Flexible
Some may swear by the "cry it out" method, but that doesn't necessarily apply to sleep regression in toddlers. My son's pediatrician explained that as a toddler makes developmental leaps in one area, they can regress in other areas like sleep. As their brain is rapidly growing and changing, your toddler might be scared of these new developments and just needs some reassurance from you, according to Baby Center.
7. Acknowledge Their Sleep Rhythms
A final reminder, every child is different. Just like adults, some people are night owls while others love the sunrise. According to The Mayo Clinic, sleep regression in toddlers could be the emergence of their natural sleep pattern developing. It may be frustrating, but I've found that the more I try to work with and not against my son's natural sleeping habits, the easier it is for everyone.