Sleep regression occurs when a previously well-rested toddler suddenly starts waking up more often at night, taking shorter naps, or refusing to go to bed at all.

Sleep regression comes in many forms and can occur at different stages of a child’s development. Usually, 2-year-old sleep regression is the last major sleep regression before the toddler transitions to a more stable sleep pattern.

This article explains some potential causes of 2-year-old sleep regression and offers tips on managing it.

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Sleep regression is a temporary change in a baby or toddler’s sleep patterns. Approximately 20–30% of infants and toddlers experience night awakenings and sleep difficulties through the first 2 years of their lives.

The 2-year-old sleep regression occurs when a 2-year-old starts experiencing disruptions in their sleep, such as frequent night waking, difficulty falling asleep, or shorter naps.

Rising early in the morning may also be a sign of sleep regression.

Read about when babies sleep through the night.

There are several reasons a 2-year-old may experience sleep regression. Some possible causes include the following.

Developmental milestones

Toddlers go through various developmental milestones during this time, such as learning to walk, talk, and gain independence. These milestones can make it difficult for them to settle down and relax at bedtime, leading to sleep regression.

For example, learning to talk may result in the child wanting to practice their new-found language skills at night or during nap time.

Changes in the environment

Changes in a toddler’s environment, such as moving to a new home, starting day care, or changing their bedtime routine, can disrupt their sleep patterns and cause sleep regression.

These changes can also lead to feelings of anxiety or insecurity, which may make it harder for the child to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night.

Separation anxiety

Some toddlers may experience separation anxiety during this time. They may fear being away from their parents or caregivers, making it difficult to fall asleep during nap time or at night.


Toddlers start developing vivid imaginations at around 2 years old. This can lead to fears of the dark, monsters under the bed, or other imaginary creatures. These fears may make it harder for them to feel safe and comfortable when it is time to sleep.


Teething is a natural process that all toddlers go through. However, teething can be a painful and uncomfortable experience, often disrupting their sleep patterns.


Toddlers often have difficulty recognizing tiredness and may resist going to bed or napping even when exhausted. This can lead to overtiredness, which can cause irritability, aggression, and distress.

Managing 2-year-old sleep regression can be challenging, but there are a few steps parents can take to help their child through this phase.

Create a calm and soothing environment

Toddlers need a calm and soothing environment to sleep well. This means making sure their bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. A nightlight or white noise machine may also help alleviate any fears or anxieties they may have about sleeping in the dark.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that toddlers transition to a toddler bed when they are 35 inches tall or the side rail of their crib is less than three-quarters their height.

Maintain a schedule

Establishing and maintaining a predictable bedtime routine or schedule helps toddlers feel secure. A consistent routine signals the child that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

In addition to creating a sense of security, a bedtime routine promotes emotional and behavioral regulation and parent-child bonding.

Encourage independent sleep

The Excuse Me Drill (EMD) is a technique parents or caregivers can use to encourage independent sleep in their toddlers. This involves gradually increasing the time between when the child goes to bed and when the parent responds to their requests for attention or assistance.

The EMD works by giving the child an excuse for why the parent is leaving the room, such as, “Excuse me, I’m just going to the bathroom.” The parent then leaves the room and waits a few minutes before returning. This helps the child learn to self-soothe and fall asleep independently, reducing dependence on their parent for nighttime comfort.

Read about self-soothing baby techniques and tips.

Sleep regression in 2-year-old children can vary but typically lasts 2–6 weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that toddlers get 11–14 hours of sleep daily, including naps.

Parents or caregivers who notice their child is not getting enough sleep or is experiencing persistent sleep disturbances should consult their pediatrician for further guidance.

Excessive snoring, difficulty breathing, and frequent nightmares in toddlers may indicate an underlying sleep disorder or health issue that a healthcare professional should address.

Sleep regression is a typical phase many toddlers go through, but it can be frustrating for parents or caregivers.

There are several things parents can do to help their toddlers sleep better, such as establishing a regular bedtime routine, creating a calm and soothing environment, and encouraging independent sleep.

Parents or caregivers who notice a toddler’s sleep problems are severe or come with accompanying symptoms, such as snoring or loud breathing, need to contact their pediatrician.