Sleep is a big deal for kids. Just like it aids adults, sleep helps kids rejuvenate their body, minds, and emotions. When they don't get enough of it they, and their parents, can feel like the whole world is coming undone. That's why it's helpful for all parents to familiarize themselves with sleep regressions, including the ones that happen after 1 year of age. So, what is the 2-year sleep regression? Perhaps more importantly, what can you do to help support your child through it, so everyone can get back to a good night's sleep? Like almost anything else parenting related, the more information you have the better you'll be able to handle those sleep-less nights.
According to The Baby Sleep Site, children have several sleep regression periods by the time they're 2 years old. The site goes on to define a sleep regression as "a period of time when a baby or toddler who’s been sleeping well suddenly begins waking at night and during naptime, or even refusing to go to sleep at all." If you're a parent you'll be happy to know that the 2 year old sleep regression is thought to be the last one you'll have to deal with.
If you can imagine being a newly independent 2 year old, it's not too hard to understand why they might have trouble sleeping. After all, there's so much to learn and experience on a daily, almost overwhelming basis. Plus, there are so many parental instructions to say a big resounding "no!" to. If you're anything like me, you'd have trouble sleeping, too.
All the experts seem to agree that this timely regression is primarily due to normal life transitions, such as expecting a new sibling, transferring to a toddler bed, increased awake time, and nighttime fears. Baby Center reminds us weary parents to "provide extra security and comfort without making a big deal over it." Toddlers won't understand why they're regressing either, and they count on their parents to provide them with reassurance and confidence that they'll get back to normal sooner rather than later.
Baby Center does recommend, however, setting boundaries around how long to let the regressive behaviors continue. Generally, "(k)ids have a drive to go forward and will soon outgrow any 'baby' behaviors they revisit." In other words, support and comfort your toddler and wait until the normal regression subsides. The Baby Sleep Site cautions against adjusting nap time and bed time schedules too soon, though. Just because your wee one may be balking at having to miss out on the afternoon fun during nap time, doesn't mean they are ready to give up their nap for good.
The American Academy of Pediatrics shares a list of helpful bedtime routines for making sure your toddler gets a good night's sleep. However, if the sleep regression is going on for several months or you notice other changes or missed milestones you can always review your concerns at your toddler's next pediatrician visit.