Congratulations, you've survived the baby gauntlet and have managed to reach the toddler phase! Your sleepless nights aren't over, though. Sure, you're (maybe) not buying diapers anymore, and your kid has a significantly larger vocabulary, but sleeping through the night? Yeah, that's still not a thing. So, if you find yourself wondering, "What is the 2-year sleep regression? Most importantly, how do I make it stop?" know that you're not alone. Not by a long shot, my friends.
Getting babies on a sleep schedule, or guiding them as they develop their own waking and sleeping routine, takes time and patience. Just when all seems right in the world and your hard work has paid off, your kid suddenly starts waking up in the middle of the night or refusing to take naps. These are called sleep regressions and, as stressful as they are for parents to experience, they are quite normal. According to the Baby Sleep Site, a sleep regression is defined as, "a period of time (anywhere from 1-4 weeks) when a baby or toddler who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking at night, and/or skipping naps (or waking early from naps) for no apparent reason."
Once your child reaches 2 years of age, they will have likely experienced at least one sleep regression in the past. They often appear at different stages of your child's life, typically at 4 months, 8-10 months, 18 months, and 2 years old. By the time a child is 2 years old, though, most children will have spent more time asleep than awake, accordingly to the National Sleep Foundation. It won't feel that way, to be sure, but the same foundation ensures parents a child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood asleep. So yes, regressions happen, but rest assured your child is still sleeping.
Rebecca Michi, a British Children's Sleep Consultant based in Seattle, explains that regressions happen when your child is dealing with changes such as, "moving to a toddler bed, adding a new sibling to the family, potty training, and beginning to need less sleep." Sometimes the 2-year sleep regression can be a sign that your child needs to drop their daytime nap. According to Parents.com, toddlers require between 10 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hours period. While it might take some getting used to, dropping that daytime nap may allow your child to get the necessary, required amount of uninterrupted sleep they need.
The Baby Sleep Site advises parents to look out for signs that your toddler is done napping, such as not appearing tired at normal sleep times and taking a long time to fall asleep. If a daytime nap isn't the problem, take stock of what else is going on in your toddler's life. Have they started potty training, or are they anticipating the arrival of a new sibling? If so, perhaps the regression is just a period of transition that, in a week or so, will end.
While sleep regressions are a normal part of a child's development, they can be tough on parents. Surviving them requires patience, liberal doses of coffee, and plenty of flexibility. Sometimes it can feel like nothing you are doing is working or making any difference at all, but rest assured you aren't doing anything "wrong." Before you know it, your toddler will be back on their normal sleep schedule, and the 2-year sleep regression will feel like nothing more than a bad dream.