2 Year Old Sleep Problems Keeping You Awake?

Are 2 year old sleep problems keeping you awake? Discover 6 solutions to try when your toddler won’t go to sleep.

2 Year Old Sleep ProblemsWhether your 2 year old has been a great sleeper until now or she always wakes up six times a night insisting on sleeping in your bed, it’s never easy dealing with sleep problems.

This is the stage when kids realize there’s a world going on outside their immediate environment. They’re aware that things are happening beyond their bedroom walls and want to stay up to join the fun.

They’re also developing complex emotions like a fear of monsters and shadows as well as separation anxiety. Personal changes like potty training or growing more teeth can also contribute to a lack of sleep. And let’s not forget that this is when they’re starting to test limits.

No matter the reason, one thing is for sure: these problems leave everyone exhausted the next morning.

Don’t worry—rather than waiting for this stage to pass, you can do plenty to help her get the sleep she needs. Here’s how:

1. Have a consistent bedtime schedule

The most common culprit when it comes to sleep problems is the lack of schedules and daily routines. Bedtime happens whenever your toddler happens to feel tired or fluctuates with that day’s activities.

As accommodating as a flexible schedule may be, it can wreak havoc on a child’s sleep. Kids thrive with predictability, as it allows them to know what to expect and calms their nerves or the resistance they might feel about sleep.

A bedtime schedule also makes flexibility more possible. When every other day is the same, not going to sleep until 11pm for a family party of Fourth of July fireworks can go much smoother.

Instead of adjusting her bedtime around daily activities, adjust her activities around bedtime. This might mean moving dinner earlier or cutting out activities, but it can all be worth it once she starts sleeping well.

2 Year Old Not Going to Sleep Until 11pm

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2. Adjust nap or bedtime

Does your toddler take forever to finally fall asleep or resist turning off the lights and heading to bed? If so, he might not be tired enough come bedtime.

This is especially common if he takes a long midday nap or if nap time is too close to bedtime. With ample rest and not enough wake times to feel sleepy, it’s no wonder he’d rather stay up than head to bed.

Instead, experiment with naps and bedtime. Cut his nap short and move bedtime earlier to accommodate a longer stretch of wake time. Move it earlier in the day so he has more time to stay awake. Or wake him up earlier in the morning and set a new schedule.

Get more tips on establishing a 2 year old bedtime.

2 Year Old Bedtime

3. Talk about your toddler’s day

I’d sometimes press my ear to my kids’ room and hear one of them whispering and mumbling under his breath. Turns out, he was “reviewing” his day, going through things he saw, or even singing songs he learned at school.

With so much going on during the day, bedtime is often the only time toddlers have to “debrief” all that had happened. As you can imagine, this can make for a long night, especially since it may take them as long as an hour to run through this routine.

What to do? Talk about your toddler’s day during the day. Ask her to describe what happened at preschool or daycare, or what her favorite part of the day was. Review what happened, from the funny game she made up to wearing a new jacket.

These simple conversations can help “release” the thoughts trying to make sense in her mind. The more you verbalize and give meaning to them, the more she can understand and finally let them go.

Take a look at the top 20 open ended questions for kids.

4. Ease your child’s separation anxiety

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If your 2 year old’s sleep problems stem from separation anxiety, setting boundaries and easing her nighttime fears can be all she needs to fall asleep.

For instance, you might install a nightlight in her room to banish her fear of the dark. Leave the door open a crack and the hallway light on so she doesn’t feel so isolated. Let her sleep with one of your pillows, or give her a new stuffed animal for comfort.

And most importantly, watch your reaction. Your anxiety or frustration only confirms to her that this sleeping arrangement isn’t so good after all. But if you’re calm and confident, she has no reason to believe she shouldn’t be in bed.

5. Check in strategically

Do you go inside your toddler’s room at his every whimper and cry? You might be setting unrealistic expectations you can’t sustain. Yes, check in when he cries during the night, but remind him that he’s fine and that you see no reason to keep coming back to his room.

Then, rather than checking in every time he cries (or staying in his room until he stops), check in at set times, such as every 10 or 15 minutes. You’re able to check and see that nothing is wrong, and he feels reassured that you’re still here (even if you’re not going in every minute).

If he falls asleep but wakes up crying a few hours later, check in on him at that time. Remind him once again that it’s time to sleep and repeat your timed check-ins once more.

And remember, stay consistent with your strategy: check in at the designated intervals you decide, not each time he happens to call for you. Don’t try to console him with hugs and kisses. Being inconsistent might send mixed messages and prolong this toddler sleep regression.

Here’s how to keep your toddler in their room at night.

How to Keep Toddler in Room at Night

6. Get a toddler bed

Several parents report that their 2 year old’s sleep problems actually went away once they transitioned to a toddler bed. Some kids don’t take to sleeping in a crib and feel more motivated to sleep once they have a new bed to be excited about.

Help your toddler feel excited about the transition to a new big-kid bed by decking it out with fun sheets and bedding. Remind her that sleeping in a toddler bed means being responsible. And baby-proof her bedroom so she stays safe should she decide to roam.


Dealing with these sleep problems can leave the entire family exhausted. Hopefully, these tips have given you actionable solutions to resolve these issues.

Have a consistent bedtime schedule, especially with the time he goes to bed. Adjust naps and bedtime so he’s actually sleepy enough at night. Talk about his day when you’re together so he doesn’t feel compelled to review what he learned when he should be asleep.

Then, ease his separation anxiety at bedtime so he knows you’re not far away. Check in strategically—both as a way to reassure him that you’re here as well as to reinforce that he should be sleeping. And finally, see if a toddler bed can help him feel excited about sleep and convince him to stay in bed.

Either way, know that this is a stage he’ll pass, but now you have the tips to ease it along smoothly. Or at the least, help him stop waking up six times a night, insisting that he stay in your bed.

2 Year Old Sleep Regression Solutions

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  1. I am really struggling with sleep. My daughter is nearly 2 and has been waking around 2 or 3 for hours. I don’t know what to do. She has a one hour nap from 11:30-12:30 during the day and goes to sleep easily around 6:30 or 7. She is active during the day and not too grumpy or overtired at bedtime. She does have a bad cough which has been hanging around for a couple of months which I think wakes her.

    Do you have any advice?! I am at my wits end because I also have a 5 month old and am a single parent. I just can’t function with waking up at 2 or 3 am a few times every week. I’m beginning to think I just need to ride it out. Any ideas?!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It’s great that your daughter can put herself to sleep and stay asleep for a good stretch of the time.

      Have you checked with her pediatrician about the cough? Hopefully the antibiotics will clear it up and she won’t wake up from the cough much longer. One of my kids had a lingering cough where he’d clear his throat all the time, and it had to do with his sinus allergies. So, once we addressed that, it went away.

      That said, if it’s not the cough that’s waking her up, one idea is that she might be having a hard time falling back asleep in the middle of the night, or needs you to stay with her when she does. I think one thing that can help when kids wake up is to check in on them to remind them that it’s still sleep time, but without giving them too much attention.

      So, after you’ve reassured her that it’s time to sleep, close the door and walk away. If she’s still crying in 5 minutes, check in again, reminding her again that it’s still sleep time. Check in again at 10 and 15 minutes, and keep checking in every 15 minutes if need be so that she knows that it’s time for her to keep sleeping, but that you’re still here to check in on her from time to time. Obviously check with your pediatrician since she knows your kiddo best, but that’s one idea that has worked for me.

  2. My 2 year old is impossible. She is the most difficult person to deal with. She is tenacious in what she wants, like she won’t stop screaming and crying until she gets her way. For example, bedtime is ridiculous. We do the same routine every night and still when it’s time for her to lay in bed, she not only wants me there laying next to her, but if I am there she is constantly moving around and kicking. I move to a chair, she is not happy. She gets out of bed, I calmly tell her lay back down. She screams, moves, I tell her it’s quiet time. I tell her if she doesn’t go to bed mommy has to leave the room. I leave the room, she screams and gets out of bed. I put her back, leave, she screams and gets out, and over and over again until I stay in the room and either sit in the chair or lay on the bed and then she will finally fall asleep. It’s a circus. It’s exhausting. Any help is appreciated!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It’s definitely rough when kids seem to do the exact opposite of what we say, or when they never seem satisfied with anything.

      One thing that has really helped me was to stay consistent and hold my ground. For instance, she gets mixed messages if you tell her to stay in bed, only for you to sleep in her room after she puts up a long enough fight. Also, personally I used those door knob covers on the inside of my kids’ room so that they couldn’t get out while I was sleep training them to stay in their room. That way she can’t get out every time you leave. Just make sure to check in on her every few minutes to let her know you’re still here, but that it’s still sleep time.

  3. Hello! I have a 2 1/2 year old son. When he was about 12 months old he got a cold and we held him at night so he could breath. Every since then, he has been held all night in a recliner to sleep and I still hold him for naps. We are so desperate for solutions but feel so anxious about his security in sleeping alone. I hope you can help! Thank you!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It’s definitely a struggle when you’ve gone this long with little sleep, and your child’s sleep habits are simply unsustainable. It looks like he has gotten used to falling asleep this way, and can be vocal (aka cry and fuss) if he sleeps any other way. But like any habit, we need to replace the ones we don’t want with the ones we do want.