2 Year Old Sleep Regression Solutions That Work

Struggling with your toddler’s lack of sleep? Check out these 2 year old sleep regression solutions that work. No more sleep deprivation!

2 Year Old Sleep Regression Solutions

There you find yourself yet again: pretending to be asleep on the floor next to your 2 year old, afraid to move even an inch. Because any movement—much less leaving the room—means he’ll stir and take even longer to finally fall asleep.

Sleep regressions, though common, can throw any parent off track. I can certainly relate. One of my kids would normally sleep for a good 10-12 hours every night, only to start waking up every two hours on the dot. Another couldn’t adjust to his new big kid bed and kept climbing out of it and going to my room. And separation anxiety seemed to hit hard at this stage.

As much as letting them sleep in my room or me camping out in theirs “worked,” these quick fixes didn’t address the real issues. Instead, I’ve learned to approach sleep regressions differently, both during the day and at bedtime. Let’s take a look at a few 2 year old sleep regression solutions that can finally solve them:

Don’t enable habits you don’t want

It’s not unusual for your child to want to sleep in your room, considering how comforting that feels compared to being alone in his. If not in your room, perhaps he wants you to stay in his until he falls asleep (except, of course, he wakes up throughout the night whenever he discovers you’re no longer there).

You might assume that a simple solution is to stay with him in some way—either you sleep in his room or he in yours. But not only is this not a sustainable solution, it also sends the message that he can’t and shouldn’t sleep on his own.

Each time you relent to him sleeping in your room, you reinforce the idea that his room isn’t a safe or comfortable place to sleep. By lying on the floor next to his bed every night, he continues to feel like he won’t be able to sleep without you next to him.

Instead, encourage confidence in his ability to sleep on his own. Remind him that he has done this before and can do so again. If he comes to your room, walk him back to his and comfort him there. Say good night and leave the room instead of waiting for him to fall asleep.

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Consider your child’s room the new “crib”

One of the biggest contributors to sleep regressions this age is the transition to a toddler bed. No longer confined by the tall structure of their crib, toddlers can now roam the room and even the house. And for many, this adjustment is reason enough to struggle with sleep.

The result? You find yourself walking your child back to his room for over two hours, with him opening the door the minute you shut it behind you (been there, done that!). Or you’re afraid he’ll hurt himself walking around the house in the middle of the night while you’re asleep.

What to do? Consider his room his new “crib.”

When he was in his crib, he was confined to that space. Now that he’s ready for a toddler bed, create similar boundaries with his room.

Keep his door closed so that he can’t roam the house while you’re asleep. Make sure to baby proof the room, from covering sockets to securing furniture. Use your baby monitor to keep an eye on him from a different room.

And now that he can’t get out, check on him every 15 minutes if he’s still crying. For instance, say good night, close the door, and set your timer. If he’s still crying in 15 minutes, go in and let him know it’s time to sleep and that you’re in the next room. Set your timer again, and repeat as needed. Keep these check-ins calm and brief, not frantic or frustrated.

Create a fun, comforting space for your child

One way to encourage your child to sleep well is to turn his bedroom into a fun, comforting space he wants to be in.

For instance, offer him a lovey or bedtime buddy. This is his special stuffed animal to keep him company when he’s in bed. You can also enlist his help to decorate his bed in some way, from picking out new bedding to arranging his toys for sleep.

Adjust his light needs as well. If the room is too dark, a night light can add comfort, as can leaving the door ajar with the hallway light on. Conversely, if the night light is casting scary shadows, you can choose a lower light or do away with it altogether.

And make sure to spend plenty of time in his room during the day. If you’re usually in the living room or kitchen, he might see his room as strictly the place to sleep (which, at this point, isn’t one of his favorite activities). He can start associating his room as a positive place when he hangs out there more often.

Give your child a special item

My husband mentioned he used to have a monkey stuffed animal named Morris that he kept with him at all times. So, I bought him a new monkey stuffed animal as the “new” Morris.

Morris stays in fairly good condition… since we don’t let the kids play with him much. That is, unless they have a difficult time falling asleep.

When our 2 year old was going through a sleep regression, offering Morris to sleep with was enough to keep him in bed all night. Any fears that lurked didn’t stand a chance with Morris by his side.

Whether a special stuffed animal, a beloved toy, or even your own pillow, give your child a special, comfort item to sleep with for a few nights. The novelty of sleeping with something out of the ordinary can get him to feel rested through the night.

Stick to a consistent schedule

Your child might be experiencing changes and developmental milestones in her life, from a new school to a new sibling, that could be making her days feel chaotic. She might be feeling the discomfort of cutting new teeth or adjusting to potty training.

One of the best solutions to these changes is to create a 2 year old sleep schedule and keep it as predictable as possible. When everything else in her life seems to be changing, she can at least count on this consistency.

This is when you want to do the same activities in the same order at the same times of the day. Start with when she eats and sleeps, keeping those the same as much as you can. Do the same activities, from a daily trip to the park to library story time on Tuesdays.

How does this affect sleep? With so much of her schedule predictable, she’s less likely to fight going to sleep, knowing that’s what she simply does. It becomes automatic and expected, not something to fuss about.

Move nap time to the middle of the day

How well your child welcomes sleep can have a lot to do with when and how long his nap is. Take one too early and he might have a difficult time falling asleep (not to mention feeling overtired come bedtime). A nap too late could mean he’s not tired enough to have a restful night of sleep.

How do you know when he should nap? Aim for the middle of the day.

Factor in what time he wakes up and falls asleep, and adjust the nap to happen in the middle. Let’s say he wakes up at 7am and is asleep by 7pm and takes a two hour nap. In that case, adjust the nap so it happens from 12-2pm, giving him five hours of being awake before and after.

Have an early bedtime

Many of us have assumed that the more tired our kids feel, the more prone they are to sleep through the night. After all, how often have we conked out ourselves after an exhausting day?

But for many kids, sleep begets sleep. The more tired—or even overtired your child is leading up to bedtime—the harder it can be for her to fall asleep. 

Experiment with sleep by having an earlier bedtime. Have her sleep not when she’s beyond tired, but at that comfortable place of welcomed drowsiness. You could move bedtime up as little as 15-30 minutes at a time to see if that can help her sleep well that night.

Give your child a choice

Is your sleep routine riddled with stall tactics and power struggles? Get him to comply by giving him choices. The key is to define what’s non-negotiable and give him a choice in other matters.

For instance, going to bed is a non-negotiable, but he can choose whether to wear the red or blue pajamas. He has to take a nap, but he can have a choice of which books to read before getting tucked in.

You might even phrase it as enlisting his help, inviting him to be part of the plan. At the same time, you also have to be okay with whichever choice he settles on. In other words, both choices have to be parent-approved. And don’t overwhelm him with too many choices—any more than two can lead to indecision.

Hold your ground

You’ve likely noticed that inviting your child to sleep in your bed isn’t exactly going to end on its own. It’s time to encourage him to sleep in his own bed—and stay there.

Giving in to the tantrums and stalling tactics may mean a quick solution for the night, but months of bad habits down the line. Yes, he’ll likely get upset, but catering to his tears means not doing what’s in his best interest: reassuring him that he can sleep on his own.

Comfort him throughout the night with frequent but brief check-ins so he knows you’re still here, but keep things subdued and matter-of-fact. Don’t give in to long talks, negotiations, or even hours of holding him in your arms. Let him know, in a calm and confident way, that everything is fine.

Be consistent

Parenting is a bit of a balancing act, don’t you think? On one hand, you don’t want to be so strict that you can’t let little things slide. But on the other, you also don’t want to let chaos rule and confuse your child even more.

However, in the case of sleep regression, setting consistent boundaries is key. Insisting that she sleep in her bed one night only to let her sleep in yours the next will only confuse her. Be consistent with not just the rules but your intentions as well.

This applies to her sleep routine, too. While you can experiment with an early bedtime, try to stay consistent with everything else leading up to it, from bath time to brushing her teeth to putting on pajamas. The consistency will help transition her into bed more easily than without it.

Final thoughts

You can survive this phase by addressing the real issues behind your 2 year old’s behavior and establishing healthy sleep habits once again.

Stop enabling habits you don’t want to continue and keep him contained in his room just as you had in the crib. Create a fun and comfortable sleep environment, stick to a consistent schedule, and adjust nap time to fall in the middle of the day.

This sleep regression will pass soon enough—and you won’t find yourself pretending to be asleep on the floor, afraid to move an inch in case he wakes up.

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2 Comments

  1. Our daughter immediately sets the day off on a ‘bad’ foot. She starts the night in her bed (my husband and I both lay with her until she’s asleep) and then she walks into our room around 2am. We’re okay with this, but it’s not great. She’s still nursing in the early morning (5amish) and then falls back asleep for another 2 hours and then still wakes up soooo cranky and often wants milk again. I’m okay nursing her once in the morning, but two is too much.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Jacky! One thing I’ve learned is that if we want something to stop, we have to also stop the habits that are enabling the behavior (for instance, co-sleeping instead of teaching her to sleep in her room alone). The transition or training period may be hard, but it’s an effective way to essentially replace old habits with new ones. Hang in there, mama! <3