How To Survive Toddler Sleep Regression: A Complete Guide
bIf your little one has been a great sleeper for a while but now they’re back to waking up throughout the night, you can thank toddler sleep regression.
Toddler sleep regression doesn’t happen to all toddlers, but when it does, it can disrupt everyone’s sleep. If you want to discover the cause of your toddler’s sleep regression and learn ways to manage it, keep reading for our complete guide.
What Is Toddler Sleep Regression?
You finally settle into a good groove when it comes to your child’s sleep patterns and then, out of nowhere, you find yourself wondering when the last time was that you got a good night’s sleep.
If your little one was once a great sleeper but all of a sudden they’re waking up in the middle of the night, refusing to go to sleep at night, or waking up too early in the morning, you can chalk it up to sleep regression.
However, this doesn’t just involve nighttime sleep. It also involves changes to their nap schedule. A toddler sleep regression is any setback in your toddler’s sleep habits.
When Do Toddler Sleep Regressions Happen?
Sleep regressions usually happen when your toddler hits a big milestone, such as talking. Your little one’s vocabulary usually soars between 18 and 24 months.
And guess what? That is usually when toddler sleep regressions happen!
A lot is going on in your toddler’s brain during this timeframe, including the increased brain activity that temporarily disrupts your little one’s sleep.
How Long Do Sleep Regressions Last?
Not all toddlers will experience a sleep regression. But for the toddlers who do, some are short-lived and can be resolved immediately, whereas some, unfortunately, can turn into month-long escapades.
It really all depends on the reasoning behind their sleep shenanigans, which we’ll look at next.
Reasons For Toddler Sleep Regression
As we mentioned, sleep regressions don’t happen to every toddler. But when they do, it can be exhausting for everyone. Narrowing down the reason behind your toddler’s sleep trouble can help you get a better idea of how to handle it.
Common reasons your little one’s sleep habits have changed include:
- Gaining a new sense of independence
- Increased brain activity
- Bursts of energy
- Testing limits
- Wanting to put their new “skills” into practice (running, talking, playing games, etc.)
- Timing of bedtime is off (putting your toddler to bed too early or too late)
- Developing a sense of fear or dealing with separation anxiety (new anxieties)
- Feeling uncomfortable due to pajamas, lighting, bedding, body temperature, and more
- Change in family dynamics (new baby or changes in a parent’s work schedule)
- Transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed
How To Manage Toddler Sleep Regression
Have A Consistent And Fun-Filled Daytime Schedule
Managing your toddler’s sleep habits at night starts with healthy habits during the day. Your toddler is full of energy — and for very good reasons!
Like we mentioned above, their mind and body are constantly growing at this stage. They’re also curious and like to explore. If they’re not engaged during the day and finding a way to release all of that energy, you can forget about sleeping!
A great way to help them get all of their energy out is by playing outside. Toddlers need about two hours per day of outdoor play to thrive.
(Before you head outside, apply our Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Spray, SPF 50 to your little one. And our Clear Zinc Sunscreen Stick - SPF 30 - Fragrance Free is perfect for their face, lips, ears, or anywhere with extra-sensitive skin.)
Their daytime schedule needs a balance between play and rest. Most toddlers are still taking naps at this age (if their sleep regression isn’t interrupting their snooze session!).
Make their daytime schedule fun, engaging, and consistent to manage your toddler’s sleep regression.
Keep A Structured Bedtime Routine
Bedtime can easily become your enemy if your toddler is regressing in their sleep. But your little one’s bedtime routine should be something to embrace, not something to dread.
Get your toddler comfortable and appropriately dressed for bed, then choose a quiet, calming activity before they fall asleep. Try some of these ideas to keep your toddler’s bedtime routine structured and soothing.
Avoid Caffeine And Sugar
Your toddler’s pediatrician probably already had the talk with you about their nutrition. More than likely, caffeine and sugar are out of the question.
Except for birthday parties and celebrations (everyone needs a treat every once in a while!), caffeine and sugar shouldn’t be something that your little one consumes daily. It interferes with their behavior and — you guessed it — their sleep!
When you decide to treat your little one, do so during the early afternoon so they have some time to run off all the sugar that gives them extra energy.
Use Tangible Sleep Props
A sleeping prop can be anything that helps your toddler fall asleep, such as:
- Lovey (special stuffed animal)
- White noise machine
Toddlers sleep better when they have the right environment and props. We recommend using things that they can benefit from when you’re out of the room.
Patting your little one’s back, nursing them, and rocking them are obviously not bad. However, these things can become a problem when your toddler has to have them fall asleep. You can easily get worn out from doing one or more night after night.
As a parent, you know your child, what they need, and when they need it. If they need some extra cuddles before bedtime, go for it! But try to avoid cuddling until they fall sound asleep.
Instead, choose tangible sleep props for your toddler and only use them at nap time and bedtime. They’re a signal to let your little one know that it’s time to go to sleep.
Choose Calm Activities Before Bedtime
We mentioned a few soothing activities to use as part of your toddler’s bedtime routine. But it’s also important to take inventory of the activities your little one is engaging in right before they start their nighttime routine.
Think of this time as a transition to a transition! Their bedtime routine is a transition to bedtime. But the time before their bedtime routine is also a transition.
With it being so close to bedtime and because it takes a while for toddlers to calm down, avoid rowdy activities before bed. Instead, choose calm activities, like reading a book, coloring, or going for a family walk in the late evening.
As tired as you might be (for understandable reasons!), be patient with your toddler. Remember this won’t last forever even though it feels like an eternity.
Remind yourself that your toddler probably went through something similar when they were a baby. But you made it through!
Narrowing down the reasons for your little one’s sleep regression gives you a glimmer of hope that this phase will soon come to an end and you’ll be able to sleep again!
Getting Back On Track
Your first order of business is getting your toddler’s sleep back on track so you can get back on track with yours! Remember: The length of your toddler’s sleep regression really depends on the reasoning behind it.
From growing brain activity to transitioning beds and everything in-between, determine the “why” behind their sleep setback.
Manage your toddler’s sleep habits with consistent daytime and nighttime activities. Avoid anything that may excite your little one late in the day, like sugar and caffeine.
Finally, wrap up their day with soothing nighttime products, like our Plant-Based Bubble Bath collection and our lotions And creams to help your toddler relax so they can get back to a good night’s sleep!