How To Conquer The 2.5 Year Sleep Regression

July 18, 2018
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Is your 2-year old struggling to sleep?

There is a well-known sleep regression at 2.5 years and many moms have despaired about how challenging it is.

If you’re there right now then this post is for you. Just read on for tips on how to conquer this tricky stage.

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What Does a Sleep Regression Look Like?

A sleep regression occurs when a baby or toddler that normally sleep well begins waking frequently through the night, or refuses naps.

You will need to rule out things like growth spurts and hunger before you can decide that it is a true sleep regression.

A sleep regression can literally start overnight and often parents are entirely unprepared for it.

What to Consider With Toddler Sleep Regressions

Just like babies, toddlers continue to grow and develop at a rapid rate, however, growth spurts don’t very often cause sleep upsets in toddlers so much as they do in babies.

Your toddler will go through unsettled sleep patterns as they learn new things or their schedule changes, but a true sleep regression can last weeks and you will likely try everything to try and fix it.

While in some cases you may just have to stick to your guns and wait it out there are several tips to help make life easier for everyone when going through it.

Keep reading to find out what they are.

5 Tips for Dealing with the 2.5 Year Old Sleep Regression:

#1 Set Up Boundaries

At 2-years of age, your toddler will thrive when sensible boundaries are put in place.

The common thing for parents to do when hit with a sleep regression is to change things up to try and figure out what’s wrong.

After they give up trying, they start to cave in other areas and before you know it, their toddler is struggling even more because now there are no boundaries in place.

One of the best tools that we have ever invested in is a toddler clock. Specifically, the Gro Clock.

We’ve had ours since our firstborn was 18-months old (he’s currently closing in on 5) and it is still going strong.

What does it do?

It changes color depending on whether it is sleep time or time to get up. This will help your toddler tremendously because they know that if they wake in the night it is not time to get up.

Now, the clock in and of itself won’t solve issues if you as the parent aren’t enforcing your family rules, but it can be a super helpful tool.

Here are several toddler clocks that are popular:

Toddler Clocks

#2 Remain Consistent

I’m not actually a huge fan of the phrase ‘sleep regression’. It’s thrown around far too liberally in my opinion and used to cover issues such as sleep associations, etc.

For that reason, if your child has previously had healthy sleep habits and is able to put themselves to sleep independently, then before you panic and change anything. Stop.

Just remain consistent.

Related: 120 + Activities for Toddlers

If your toddler has not yet learnt how to sleep independently, then sleep training is most likely required.

Precious Little Sleep has a great sleep guide for toddlers to get you started –> Toddler and Preschooler Sleep Guide

Children go through phases. Toddlers particularly so.

Their little bodies and minds are growing at an alarming rate. It is no wonder that sometimes their sleep patterns can become a little funky.

I believe that one of the most effective strategies when it comes to parenting toddlers is to simply remain consistent.

What is the Right Age to Start Sleep Training? || When should you start to sleep train your baby, if at all? Is there a right time? Find out in this post! #parenting #babies #sleeptraining #sleep #babysleep #motherhood
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This applies to both discipline and to sleep.

Their world is constantly changing so your consistency will make the world of difference.

#3 Give It Time

This goes hand in hand with remaining consistent.

Before you change anything, just give it time.

Generally speaking, I like to say that 2 weeks is ample time to decide whether something needs to be changed. However, this is 2 weeks of solidly poor sleep.

If it’s hit or miss, then I would even allow up to a month of waiting and seeing if things settle on their own.

How To Conquer The 2.5 Year Sleep Regression

#4 Reevaluate the Schedule

If time and consistency aren’t helping then the next step is to reevaluate your toddler’s schedule.

There are times in a child’s life where their sleep needs increase or decrease. It is super important to be able to address those needs as they arise.

Perhaps your 2-year old needs more time awake before their nap. You could push it a little later in the day.

Or, if bedtime is the issue, then capping their nap at a certain time can help.

If your little one is struggling with night wakings, then I would address those in different ways depending upon what daytime looks like.

If they’re still napping solidly during the day then reducing their daytime sleep total could help.

However, they are not napping well during the day, then I would say that they’re more likely dealing with a sleep deficit and could greatly benefit from an early bedtime until naps straighten out again.

#5 Troubleshoot

Once you’ve reevaluated your child’s schedule I would suggest troubleshooting other areas.

Both mental and physical exercise play a great part in the successfulness of your child’s sleep times.

This post from Val gives some wonderful tips on how to implement some strategies into your toddler’s day –> How To Solve Sleep Problems for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Other things to consider are:

The Temperature

My kids sleep far better in cooler temperatures (not freezing, mind you!). If they get too hot, my son especially, will sleep fitfully and wake with nightmares.

Do your best to make sure that your toddler’s sleep environment is at a therapeutic temperature.

Screen Time

Some children are more sensitive to screen time than others. If your child is struggling to wind down to sleep, then cutting out or reducing screen time might solve the issue.

Fear

Fear is not something to be flippant about. Often times, it is very real for your child and can cause a lot of disruptions.

Take this into consideration when troubleshooting and then work on some strategies for dealing with it.

#6 Enforce Rest Time

This is something that is going to become more and more important the older your child becomes.

There will come a day when naps are dropped entirely and when they are rest time is still crucial for both your child and the rest of the household.

Even if your toddler is not napping they absolutely must have some amount of rest time.

At age 2 I would make that for at least 1.5 hours whether they sleep or not.

I’ve always required my children to stay in their beds and to be quiet during that time. As they get older I will allow a couple of books if they haven’t fallen asleep within an hour.

Around age 3-4 some children do indeed start to drop their final naps.

I would not move towards that transition at age 2, however, if your child is within the appropriate age-range and is showing signs then the below posts will be of great help to you:

How To Transition Your Little One From Nap Time To Rest Time

How To Do Rest Time {Instead of Naps}


Before I end this post I just want to say that when your child is going through a sleep regression you can feel an enormous amount of pressure.

For whatever reason, we as mothers tend to take everything our child does personally. Yes, we can help by changing some things, but not always.

Ultimately, children are not robots. As mothers, we can only do our best and then step back. As the saying goes:

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink

We can set up our children to have the best opportunity to sleep, but we cannot enforce that they do.

Reach out to a friend for support, ask experienced mothers for advice, and rest in the knowledge that you are not alone.

Your toddler will sleep again and you’ll be better equipped to deal with any future sleep challenges that arise.

How to Get Through the 2.5 Year Sleep Regression

How to Get Through the 2.5 Year Sleep Regression

Instructions

  1. Remain Consistent - You may naturally want to try and switch things up when your 2-year old's sleep suddenly becomes disrupted. However, before you go changing everything, try and remain consistent for a couple of weeks. If after that time things aren't improving, you can go ahead and reevaluate your child's routine.
  2. Give it Time - Some sleep regressions just work themselves out. In fact, it isn't uncommon for toddlers to not nap for a few days and then go back to napping. So, along with being consistent, be sure to just give it a little time to make sure it isn't just a phase.
  3. Reevaluate the Schedule - If you've remained consistent with expectations and have given it some time but still things are challenging...now is the time to reevaluate your toddler's sleep schedule. Perhaps their sleep needs have changed? Or, nap time needs to be capped or timed differently. Try something new to see if it helps.
  4. Troubleshoot - Aside from your child's routine, there can be other influencing factors on the quality of their sleep. Troubleshoot things like activity, screen time, room temperature, etc. You never know if just one thing could be your magic fix.
  5. Enforce Rest Time - Even if your toddler does not sleep, they really do still need some down time during the day. Be sure to give them the opportunity to have quiet time and clearly explain your expectations. You could ask them to lie quietly for a while but if they don't fall asleep, then give them some books or other quiet toys to play with for a while.

Notes

This sleep regression is particularly challenging because it can go hand-in-hand with challenging behavior from your toddler as well.

Just remember to give yourselves both grace as you navigate your way through it.

It is also so important to be clear with your expectations and follow through. This will ultimately make for really great sleep habits in the long-term.

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