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  • Writer's pictureAnnika Brindley

What is a Toddler Sleep Regression?

Baby looking over his crib

What is a toddler sleep regression? A sudden change in your toddler’s sleeping habits has you wondering what the heck is going on. If your toddler used to sleep through the night but now wakes up every two hours, or takes forever to fall asleep, you may be experiencing a sleep regression.

Don’t worry – you’re not alone! This post will help explain what a regression is and give you some tips for getting through it. Keep reading to learn more.

Toddler sleep regressions defined

A toddler sleep regression is a period of time when a toddler who had previously been sleeping well suddenly starts having difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, or refusing to take naps.

What does a sleep regression look like?

A toddler sleep regression looks different for every child, but can generally be described as a return to earlier sleep habits. For some toddlers, this might mean suddenly refusing to go to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night again after having been sleeping through the night for months or even years.

Other toddlers might start resisting bedtime, wanting to stay up later and later each night. And still, others might begin having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Causes of Toddler Sleep Regressions

There can be many reasons for a toddler sleep regression, such as teething, growth spurts,

changes in routine or schedule, illnesses, or exposure to new environments. Inconsistency in caregiving, especially around sleep, is another factor that can bring on a regression. Whatever the cause, it can be frustrating and exhausting for both parents and toddlers. It is important to make sure that the cause is not medical. Common medical concerns that can disrupt toddler sleep include:

  • Teething

  • Constipation

  • Ear infections

It is important to get a clean bill of health from your pediatrician before trying to address your toddler's new sleep issues.

Cognitive growth spurts are another reason why toddlers may experience sleep regression. In particular, a huge burst of new vocabulary and the ability to put words together into sentences can be disruptive.

Toddlers are also engaged in trying to figure out who they are separate from their parents. As they individuate, they tend to test limits. What better place to test boundaries than in sleep, where boundaries abound?

How long do sleep regressions last?

Most toddlers' sleep regressions last around two weeks. However, every child is different and some may only have a one-week regression while others may have a three-week regression. It all depends on the child's individual development and sleep habits.

Ways to resolve toddler sleep regressions: consistency is key

If you've worked with Little Sleepers, you know the fundamentals of good sleep hygiene. The same principles work in resolving toddler sleep regressions.

The best way to deal with a toddler's sleep regression is to try to identify the cause and address it if possible. If there are any changes in your child's routine or environment that might be causing the regression, try to make some adjustments.

If you've never worked with a sleep consultant, it's important to get a plan of action in place and stick to it. Consistency is the number one factor for success at any juncture in teaching your child to sleep.

First, it's important to create a bedtime routine that is relaxing and calming for your child. Some tips to follow include: making sure there is enough time for your child to wind down before bed, reading stories together, avoiding screens in the hour leading up to bedtime, and keeping the bedroom dark and quiet.

If your child is resisting sleep or waking up during the night, it's important not to give in and let them get out of bed. By enforcing a consistent routine and remaining calm during bedtime battles, you'll likely see an improvement in your toddler's sleep within a week or two.


Toddler sleep regressions are a natural part of the development process. As your child approaches their second birthday and begins to explore more on their own, they will likely have trouble with sleep.

Focus on providing consistent routines during nap time and bedtime for your little one and get back to basic sleep hygiene if you've let things slide. With consistency, you will find that your toddler gets back on track.

Please know that Little Sleepers is here to help. You can contact me at any time with questions or concerns about your child’s sleep patterns and behavior. Click here to schedule time with me or to explore how we might work together to resolve your family's sleep issues.


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