How We Survived the 2 Year Sleep Regression

 In Toddler Tips

Dear sleepy mum,

When my daughter was about 10.5 months old, I decided to contact a sleep consultant.

Because I moved from overseas in 2010, and my husband’s family broke with him, we have no village – no support with raising our little girl.

I suffered mild PND and having to wake several times at night for sometimes 2 hours on end, got me totally exhausted. I cried that particular night after rocking and singing her to sleep – again.

That’s when I decided I couldn’t do this anymore. My energy was totally depleted and I hated what sleep deprivation had done to me.

Fast forward 2 weeks in time, and our daughter slept through the night and had set nap times. Praise the Lord! I felt so grateful to be able to sleep again.

To be honest, at that stage, I really didn’t think there’d be another hurdle with sleep issues along the way. I thought: ‘She knows how to self-soothe and stuff, so she’ll sleep through every night now’.

That was almost true until our daughter was about 2.5 years old. Suddenly, she cried from the moment we’d walk out of her bedroom. And it wasn’t just a gentle cry. No, a full blown tantrum!

After a few nights like this, I decided to google ‘2.5 year sleep regression’, and sure thing… it looked like more parents started experiencing sleep issues with their toddlers. Although most toddlers seem to hit this phase at 2 years old, our little girl started showing problems at 2.5 years.

So, maybe that was it. Maybe our little girl was going through a sleep regression?

What Are the Signs of the 2 Year Sleep Regression?

If your toddler has hit a sleep regression, he’ll most likely need you again to rock him to sleep, or stay close. Even though he used to self-soothe and sleep through until the morning. Suddenly, the nights become a problem again too with your toddler needing your help to fall asleep.

Of course, sometimes these signs can appear outside of a sleep regression. For example, when your little one’s sick, or his big molars are coming through.

A sleep regression stays for a longer time and can even last for months if not resolved.

Recognising the Reason Behind the Sleep Regression

When our daughter started protesting agains bedtime, we first thought she was just being a typical toddler – fighting to stay up and resisting the routine.

But it didn’t take too long to realise that she had become afraid to sleep alone.

Around the age of 2, toddlers seem to better understand the concept of fear and the possibility of things going wrong.

Our girl said there were crocodiles under her bed. She also started to become afraid of lions and monkeys, or the possibility of strangers entering into the room.

This sleep regression can also be the result of your toddler needing less sleep.

Two year olds tend to drop their naps now and then. And although most of them aren’t quite ready yet to drop their naps completely, they may be ready for shorter naps or later bedtimes.

Generally, a 2.5 year old has enough sleep with 12 hours a day, including his nap. So if your toddler sleeps more than this, a quick adjustment of his sleep and awake times may fix the problem.

Other reasons why the 2 year sleep regression may appear are: potty training, transitioning to a toddler bed, a new sibling, …

Once you realise what could be causing the sleep regression, it’s easier to help your toddler get through it.

The 2 Year Sleep Regression and Fear

As I mentioned above, our girl told us she was afraid to be alone in the room as she believed there were crocodiles under her bed.

Now, when it comes to fear, it’s very important to remember that, although their issue may be unreasonable in your eyes, it’s real for them!

So, every time she had to go to sleep, we checked under her bed and the rest of her room. Sometimes, this wasn’t enough and she’d say there were more crocodiles in the room.

A bit later, I decided to ‘tell’ the crocs to leave her room. I’d take our daughter with me and walk throughout the house straight to the front door. All the time, I’d look behind us and say: ‘Come on you cheeky crocodiles, you need to go back outside’.

I’d open the front door and let them outside. We’d then wave to them and say ‘bye bye’.

This worked really well and her fear disappeared after a few days/nights.

We also started to leave her door open. When I mentioned this to a friend, she replied: ‘We’ve always had an open door policy’. Maybe you’re thinking the same, but we closed the door from the start as we have 2 cats. We were worried they’d jump on her bed and accidentally sleep on top of her.

Anyway, we tried leaving the door open and leave a light on in the hall while she tried to fall asleep. We’ve always had a light in her bedroom, but that wasn’t enough for her anymore. As soon as she’s fallen asleep, we turn the hall light off.

Now, in all honesty, these things didn’t change the problem immediately. For about 2-3 weeks, we also had to stay with her until she fell asleep.

We decided to repeat some of the sleep training steps we did previously. Starting a few nights with sitting next to her bed and slowly moving away from her bed with every 3 nights. This also included the nights as she refused to go to sleep again without one of us being in there with her. And yep, this was usually me. Because you know… dads tend to sleep like a log!

Although, we still tend to stay with her now, the night awakenings have been resolved with this technique. We also noticed that she’d fall asleep better once we adjusted her bedtime hour.

The 2 Year Sleep Regression and Nap Times

Toddlers around this age will slowly indicate that they don’t want to nap anymore. Now and then, this could be the case and they’re fine without napping all day. However, most 2 year olds still need one nap a day.

Our daughter did have times where she skipped her nap. Sometimes for a few days in a row, but she’d always go back to napping at some stage.

However, we started noticing that she needed more awake time in between her nap and her bedtime.

Before this, she’d nap from 11.30am (after waking at 6am) until 2.00pm and then go to bed at 7pm. Now this is too soon for her.

She still wakes up around 6am, but starts her nap closer to 12pm or 12.30pm. She’ll then nap until about 2.30pm. Her bedtime routine now moved to start at 7.30pm instead of 6.30pm. This allows her to be in bed by 8pm.

If you notice that your toddler takes a long time to fall asleep in the evening, try moving their nap and bedtime. From about 2-2.5 years old, your toddler will have enough with a 2 hour nap and 10 hours of sleep at night.

These are the tips that worked for us. Remember, if you’re going to try these as well, to be patient. A sleep regression is usually not solved within 1 night. It might even take a few weeks.

If you’re noticing that there’s no change at all, you can always consider to contact a sleep consultant for more advice.

Have you gone through the 2 year sleep regression and survived? Let me know your tips, so we can all help each other sleep better again.

Talk soon,

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