Struggling with your toddler’s lack of sleep? Check out these 2 year old sleep regression solutions that work. No more sleep deprivation!
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.
That this only happened not too long ago is only a small comfort.
He used to be a great sleeper, but now cries for mommy or daddy when you put him down for a nap or bedtime. He’ll eventually fall asleep so long as you’re within sight, but you’re quickly realizing that you can’t keep doing this forever. Then again, if you don’t, he’ll cry for almost an hour until you finally cave in.
When will things go back to normal? you wonder.
2 year old sleep regression solutions that work
Sleep regressions, though common, can throw any mom off track. Suddenly, your bedtime routine no longer works, and you’re wondering if your child will ever go back to sleeping the way he used to.
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, crying 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 kinds of quick fixes didn’t address the real issues. Instead, I’ve learned to approach sleep regressions differently, both during the day and as they were going to sleep.
Let’s take a look at a few 2 year old sleep regression solutions that can finally solve them:
1. Don’t enable habits you don’t want
It’s not unusual for your child to want to sleep in your room, considering how much more comforting that feels than being alone in his. If not in your room, perhaps he wants you to stay in his until he falls asleep. Except, of course, the night wakings start when he discovers you’re no longer there.
It might feel like a simple solution to stay with him in some way—either you sleep in his room or he in yours. But the problem? Not only is it not a sustainable way for you to keep this up, but 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 feels 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 had 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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2. Consider your child’s room his new “crib”
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One of the biggest contributors to sleep regressions this age is when two-year-olds transition to a toddler bed. No longer confined by the tall structure of their crib, they can now roam the room and even the house. And for many toddlers, this adjustment is reason enough to struggle with nighttime 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 in a toddler bed, create similar boundaries with his room.
I used doorknob covers like these (or you can turn the knobs around). This prevented my kids from being able to open the door from the inside. You also want to baby proof the room, from covering sockets to securing furniture. And lastly, use your baby monitor to keep an eye on him from a different room.
Now that he can’t get out, make sure to 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 let him know it’s time to sleep and 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.
3. 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 actually wants to be in.
For instance, offer him a lovey or bedtime buddy. This is his special stuffed animal or blanket 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, too. 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.
4. 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 feeling the discomfort of cutting new teeth or adjusting to potty training.
One of the best 2 year old sleep regression solutions is to keep as much of her schedule 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. You might want to 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.
5. Adjust naptime to the middle of the day
How well your child welcomes sleep can have a lot to do with when and how long his daytime sleep 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 let’s say he gets two hours of sleep during the day. In that case, adjust the nap so it happens from 12-2pm, giving him five hours of being awake before and after.
6. Give your child a choice
Is your sleep routine riddled with stall tactics and power struggles? Get him to comply by giving him more 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.
Wondering how to fix your 2 year old’s sleep regression? You can survive this phase by addressing the real issues behind the behavior and establish healthy sleep habits once again.
First off, stop enabling habits you don’t want to continue, even if it means a couple of rough nights helping him adjust to his regular sleep patterns. To prevent him from roaming the house, keep him contained in his room just as you had in the crib, checking in frequently to remind him it’s time to sleep.
Create a fun and comfortable sleep environment, like offering a lovey or spending time in his room during the day. Stick to a consistent schedule to lessen power struggles, and adjust nap time to fall in the middle of the day.
And finally, give him a choice in the matter, even in a small way. This will help him feel more invested in the process and likelier to follow through when he has a say.
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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