2 year sleep regression

2 year sleep regression

2 year sleep regression

If you have a 2 year old, you might be wondering if you are in the thick of the 2 year sleep regression. Maybe you just worked through the 18 months sleep regression (or you were lucky enough to have skipped it?!), your child is well settled into their (new) routine of having 1 big middle of the day nap, bedtime is mostly straight forward and you’re all enjoying a good night’s sleep…

And there it is: the 2 year sleep regression- for some creeping up slowly, others are hit with force by it!  And here you are, wondering (again): WHY? ….and WHAT to do about it?


  • In this 2 year sleep regression blog, we will cover..
  • When the 2 year sleep regression starts.
  • Why the 2 year sleep regression occurs.
  • Other factors that contribute to the 2 year sleep regression.
  • Nutrition for beating the 2 year sleep regression.


When: When does the 2 year sleep regression start?


This really depends on your child’s individual development & personality/temperament, but anywhere from 22months to closer to 3yo is most common for the families we work with.


Why: Why does sleep regress with the 2 year sleep regression?


Just like the 18 months sleep regression: at this age it's all about independence- with a capital "I" + Your child's comprehension & more complex understanding of the world increases hugely, while they are developing a sense of self & belonging

  • Your toddler is starting to understand how their behaviour affects you and how your behaviour affects them, this is a big part of the push back associated with the 2 year sleep regression.
  • Your toddler is going through many emotionswhile also learning about other people’s feelings. 
  • They often don’t know how to put words to strong emotions like frustration, anger, embarrassment, guilt and shame.

With it often comes with

  • Overall a stronger will & more stamina to fight sleep
  • Tantrums, because your toddler can’t always communicate their needs
  • another round of separation anxiety
  • fears like being afraid of the dark & from the monsters under their bed, might be setting in
  • Figuring out expectations & boundaries around them – and testing them BIG time!
  • Discovering the power of “manipulation” aka “If I do THIS, THAT happens” – and that’s not a negative thing or a sign of a “naughty’ child: it’s a vital concept to explore & practice
  • discipline/ boundaries plays a different role in parenting
Watch Diane Levy's take on different tantrums below. To access the full toddler behaviour library, sign up to a Sleepify trial today.

Other factors to consider when tackling the 2 year sleep regression are:

  1. Change in routine needed/do you have to set one up
  • sleep hygiene
  • bedtime rituals
  • wind down before nap
  • are boundaries & expectations set and clear


  1. Amount of day time sleep vs night time sleep, total sleep distribution.
  • midday nap too long/short
  • awake time before bed
  • right balance between over tiredness & not enough sleep drive, without this balance often the 2 year sleep regression can turn into nap strikes and split nights.


  1. Is your child already in a big bed?
  • change from cot to big bed happens for various reasons (i.e. another child on it’s way, hoping this would help with the regressing sleep, climbing out of cot etc.)
  • consider lack of impulse control at this age, which means we have to allow for them to be in & out of their bed during (re-) settling periods
  • look at your options to either change back to a cot or how to deal with the challenges that come with them being in their big bed



  1. Nutritional needs: are they met, according to age & their energy levels, this can play a big role in the 2 year sleep regression.
  • Lots of toddlers start to get fussy with food (even the ones that used to eat it all!)
  • Overall reduced hunger (don’t need as much amount as i.e. around 12 months they aren’t actually as hungry as they were at 12-18 months


Still, the right nutrition is still important for your child’s sleep especially during the 2 year sleep regression, so we want to make sure meals include:


  • Make sure your child eats plenty of protein over the day as this helps stabilise blood sugar levels and prevent night time wake ups due to hypoglycaemia
  • Zinc and Iron deficiencies can impair your child’s sleep, so nuts, seeds, red meat and iron rich vegetables (spinach, broccoli, string beans etc.) are great additions to your child’s diet.
  • Carbohydrates: they increase levels of the amino acid tryptophan in the brain, which helps facilitate sleep when it converts to serotonin- which is necessary for our body to produce melatonin (darkness/sleep hormone).


Here an example of a family I had the pleasure to support overcoming the 2 year sleep regression:


I had worked with Simon and his parents Sarah & Sam 1st when he was about 10 months old and they struggled with catnapping in the day and frequent night wakes, due to Simon being used to be held & fed to sleep, before he was transferred into his cot.


After coming up with a plan tailored to the familie’s needs & preferences we successfully taught Simon how to develop his independent settling skills and within 2 weeks we achievedour goals of settling into a predictable day routine with great naps and a fully consolidated night sleep for the whole family. Good bye 2 year sleep regression!

Everything went well from there until Simon’s parents got back in touch with me when he was  23 months old, and they were expecting child number 2 to arrive in only a few weeks.


Simon, who had been sleeping like clock work for the past year and was overall a very happy & content little soul, had started to fight his midday nap and bedtime tantrums had become the new routine, taking hours until he was finally asleep, only to wake up again within a couple of hours, being very challenging to be re-settled, which often resulted the parents to opt for bed sharing, desperate for some sleep before the morning.


They had tried the same settling approach we had used when he was 10 months old (a more gradual in room approach), which didn’t seem to work any longer. They thought that maybe the cot was the problem, as Simon started to scream at the pure sight of it and with baby number 2 coming they decided to transition him into a big boy bed, hoping this would help.


But Simon now being able to get in & out of bed whenever he didn’t want to go (back) to sleep, made the situation even more challenging, so Sarah & Sam got back in touch with me, hoping we could come up with a plan that would give them all the sleep they desperately needed back!


After looking at Simon’s awake time, his nap(s) and night wakes + the (re-)settling strategies the parents had tried, it became clear that there was a bit of a mix of factor going on we had to get on top off:

  • Simon was back on 2 naps, triggered by the disrupted night sleep, which resulted in a mix of over tiredness & lack of sleep drive, which in return interfered with his night sleep: a classic “chicken & egg situation”
  • The fairly early transition from cot to big bed, which in combination with the low impulse control at this age just added to the challenge of settling him (back) to sleep at bedtime & through the night
  • The mix of settling approaches & responses by Sarah & Sam, causing confusion and frustration for them as parents, as well as for Simon, which resulted into tears, tantrums & nobody being quite sure anymore what to


After talking through all of these factors and implications, we came up with a plan that considered Simon’s current sleep needs, as well as recognising the factor that there was another baby joining the family very soon.

Our main focus to tackle this 2 year sleep regression was:

  • Transitioning Simon back into his cot, acknowledging what we could realistically expect from him in terms of impulse control & to make things as easy as possible for him.
  • This meant as well we could expect faster results, which was important to consider, as Sarah was close to her due date, which meant very soon she and Sam had to juggle the (sleep) needs of 2 little humans (and their own!)
  • We re-established a more consistent day routine with just 1 long middle of the day nap, avoiding over tiredness by the end of the day & setting Simon up with the perfect sleep drive he needed to set him up for a consolidated night
  • We choose a settling approach that worked for Simon’s age and the overall family situation, making bedtime settling and dealing with night wakes much more predictable & calmer for everyone involved, which boosted not only Sarah’s & Sam’s confidence, but gave Simon as well the reassurance of knowing exactly what was to happen and what it was his parents wanted/expected from him.
  • In addition we talked about the arrival of Simon’s sibling and the potential impacts this might have (i.e. jealousy etc.), making sure to consider & look after his emotional needs


All these changes led to a clear path of action and in return we could see within the first 24 hours a significant decrease in frustration on both sides and within only a couple of nights the whole family could re-establish the restorative & consolidated night sleep they all needed!



Emma Purdue

Emma Purdue

Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.



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