How to Handle Sleep Regressions in Toddlers

Learn how to handle sleep regressions in toddlers, as childhood sleep difficulties are a normal aspect of growth. By utilizing effective strategies, you can make these challenging periods simpler for both you and your little one. Follow our guidance to navigate these sleep disruptions with ease.

Even if you have a kid who sleeps through the night (yes, I’m informed they do exist!), their sleep patterns will certainly alter as they get older. For instance, many infants and toddlers endure sleep regressions when they undergo significant developmental changes.

Many toddlers will have a sleep regression defined by a change in slumbering patterns around their second birthday. Continue reading to learn more about the causes, ages, and treatments for sleep regression.

What Are Sleep Regressions in Toddlers?

A “sleep regression” occurs when a toddler struggles with positive sleep patterns; yet, this is a normal component of child development (some might even call it a “progression!”).

Sleep regression in a toddler may manifest as refusal to go to bed, waking up throughout the night (after previously sleeping through), and resistance to naps. Common causes include normal growth and development, stress, separation anxiety, or a change in habit.

Toddlers may also strive to assert their newly acquired autonomy in any way possible, including by refusing to go to bed or attempting to dictate their bedtime.

How Long Does Sleep Regression in Toddlers Last?

Many toddlers, but not all, undergo a sleep regression. The sleep regression of toddlers typically begins between 18 months and 2 years of age, however, the precise date varies from kid to child. If you have recognized the signs, rest assured that most sleep regression stages only last a few weeks. It is possible that your child will resume sleeping through the night and will no longer wake up sobbing in the near future.

Frequent Toddler Sleep Problems (and How To Handle Them)

Sleep regressions in toddlers can occur at any time. Whether you’re suffering from an 18-month sleep regression, a 2-year sleep regression, or a 3-year sleep regression, these recommendations will help you and your child achieve a restful night’s sleep.

Four Frequent Toddler Sleep Issues

You may have observed one or more of the following common toddler sleep problems in your own home:

  • Attempting everything possible to delay bedtime.
  • Attempting to flee their bed.
  • Feeling anxious at night.
  • Adamantly refused to take a nap.

The issue is that your toddler delays bedtime.

Children of this age are learning that they have some influence in the world, and they will take advantage of any opportunity to do so. Don’t be surprised if your mini-negotiator says anything to delay bedtime, even if they’re about to nod off in the middle of a sentence. They may request a snack, to use the restroom, additional stories, or extra cuddles in an effort to delay saying “goodnight.”

The approach is to modify your bedtime ritual.

Make minor adjustments to your child’s nighttime ritual. Jill Spivack, co-creator of the book and DVD The Sleepeasy Solution, recommends sticking to the essentials — a bath, a story, some cuddling, and then lights out — but allowing them to make tiny choices along the way. Your child may be less likely to resist nighttime if they have some say in the matter. (Consider: Red or yellow nightgown? Three or four goodnight kisses?)

Licensed psychologist Brett Kuhn, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Children’s Sleep Center in Omaha, Nebraska, suggests that if your child cries when you leave their room, you should explain that it’s time for bed and that you’ll check on them when they’re calm.

Return as promised, but leave immediately. Or try Gina Beltrami’s ingenious sleep technique: After tucking Sonny into bed, she set a timer for five minutes. Beltrami of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, explains, “I told him I would sit quietly at the foot of his bed until the timer went off, and then he would have to relax by himself.” “Stalling problem fixed!”

Your toddler escapes from his or her bed.

Without crib rails to prevent them, toddlers frequently enjoy their newfound freedom by sneaking into their bed around 3 a.m.

The remedy is for them to return to bed.

Carry your midnight trespasser back to their room each time they invade your space. If you let them sleep with you, you will create an ongoing bedtime argument. Consider hanging bells on your doorway so you can hear your child approaching; this will allow you to guide them back to their room before they get themselves comfortable on your bed.

Installing a baby gate on your child’s door is another approach to reducing sleepless nights. Spivack advises, “Explain that it’s there to keep kids safe since they could get hurt roaming around the house alone in the dark,” Leave their bedroom door open to prevent them from feeling alone.

Your child is frightened of falling asleep.

You know how poorly you sleep when your head is full of worry, right? The same holds true for your young child, except they are anxious about monsters and not the mortgage. Spivack states that this is when a child’s imagination takes off. Even if they have never been terrified of the dark, they may begin to see ghosts and other frightening entities.

The remedy is to acknowledge their anxieties.

Consider your child’s anxieties. Let them know you understand how terrified they are, but avoid exacerbating their fear. According to Dr. Kuhn, the use of “monster spray” signals that spooky creatures may be lurking in the room. Reassure children that you are always present and that monsters do not exist.

Consider techniques to persuade your young child that their bedroom is safe. Play in their bedroom more frequently so that they link it with positive experiences, or “camp out” with them there for the night. Carol Ash, medical director of Sleep for Life in Hillsborough, New Jersey, suggests appointing one of your child’s stuffed animals as the “watch pet.” “I gave my son a big teddy bear so he could watch over him at night and stand up on his bed.”

Your toddler refuses to take sleep.

You might blame toddlers’ refusal to nap during the day on their growing feeling of independence and fluctuating sleep requirements, but most children are not genuinely ready to give up naps for good until about age 4 or 5. If you allow your child to skip their nap, they may be overtired and unable to sleep at night.

The remedy is to heed your child’s cues.

It may be difficult but disregard the clock. Children may no longer require an afternoon nap on the same schedule or every day as they age. Instead, search for indicators that your youngster is becoming sleepy. Put them down if they get clinging, spacey, hyperactive, or if they begin to rub their eyes. Making a toddler’s nap resemble nighttime will help them go to sleep: Keep their room dark, read a story, or sing a song to help them fall asleep. Encourage them to play quietly in their room and call it “rest time” if they refuse to sleep.

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