Overcoming the 2-Year Sleep Regression

Learn about the 2-year sleep regression and how to get your toddler back to sleeping through the night with tips from the experienced moms at Moms on Call

Let’s talk about the dreaded 2-year sleep regression! At every level, there are things that make us stronger. At every stage, bones grow, the skin stretches, and even teeth emerge (twice!), each in its own season. 

Growing up is about being right on time. The time for one may be different than the time for another. But, each milestone progresses, each organ advances and each smile broadens with the satisfaction of accomplishment. We have a message of hope. Those things that seem like setbacks or challenges are often a result of the growth and development that is right on time. 

At Moms on Call, we like to reframe some common myths that can steal our peace and leave us discouraged. That is why we call it the 2-Year Sleep PRO-gression!

Let’s take what has often been called the “2-year sleep regression” and evaluate it in light of development, neurological advancement, and hope. And therefore, we’ll rename it the “2-year sleep PRO-gression”!

The brain is a wonder of all its own. All of the connections and sensations are managed and organized at record speed. And some of the huge leaps in understanding, like language development, employ several neural pathways that lead to comprehension on a larger scale. When those neurons (connections) in the brain ‘light up,’ the whole brain celebrates. It is a stimulating process for all the interconnected parts. This is why kids have trouble sleeping right around the time of that language explosion. Because language is connected to so many things neurologically, the brain is giddy with learning! 

What can we do to help our littles get through the sleep regression?

The best thing we can do at night is keep any additional stimulation from interrupting the process that the brain is busy completing. And it takes about 2 weeks for those neurons to fire on all cylinders and for everything to calm back down so that sleep comes easily again.

Both the brain and the child benefit from the natural rest of nighttime. 

You may have never heard it explained this way, but now you know why this wonderful creation, your child, who may have been sleeping like a champ, suddenly started waking at night. And how staying out of the way and keeping them in a safe, non-optional sleep environment with little light or stimulation is the exact thing that helps the brain to process as they face normal progressions like mastering language.

White noise, Sleep environment & Nap Opportunities  

White noise is also a wonderful companion as it helps to soothe the brain. So the places can rest that need to rest. And the places that are lighting up and finding their connections can connect. 

This is how we learn and grow, restore and reset. Your job is simply to make an environment that is conducive to the normal and amazing process of learning. Who knew it required so many hours of downtime? 

Stimulation and conversation all day and a great nap opportunity will help the language explosion (plus all the other huge developmental milestones) take root. But the thing that helps the most is that nighttime sleep. Those feisty little neurons will form and function…right on time. 

So, here is the Moms on Call prescription for that SLEEP PRO-GRESSION.

  • Keep naptime free of additional stimulation even though they may not sleep. This is the perfect way to support their growing mind! See Moms on Call’s tips here for creating the ideal sleep environment.
    • Our presence, ten questions, stalling, and interacting are all things that do not give that little brain as much rest as it can get. 
    • Shoot for an hour and a half minimum and 3 hours maximum (if they fall asleep). This is from the time that the nap started (not the time they actually fell asleep).
    • They can cry, play, or sleep, but give them a nap opportunity with as little additional stimulation as possible (except that great white noise that helps the brain relax). 
  • Nighttime is the same routine.
    • If you close the door at 7:30 p.m. and they talk to themselves until 9 p.m., that is OK.
    • White noise and no additional stimulation (other than what they can produce themselves) is the way to keep this transition smooth.

You can do this, and so can they because they are growing in the very best of ways. Love them, talk to them, laugh with them during all waking hours, and then let that nap and nighttime do their good work. 

Let the brain take a rest. It is just how we are designed, and it is beautiful. (Maybe not super easy on the parent, but beautiful nonetheless!)

As we always say, they are safe, loved, and can do this. They are literally wired to do it right on time.

Check out our Toddler Online Video Course for more toddler tips and resources! The 15 months to 4 years of age is the most dynamic time with your child. This course offers the Moms on Call No-Nonsense Toddler Seminar plus an in-depth look at each profile covered under the SMART Paradigm, answers to frequently asked questions asked by parents of toddlers, additional resources reinforcing the information provided in this course, and access to the MOC Basics Videos and the popular MOC Pep Talks.