Your sweet toddler, who’s been sleeping peacefully at night, is suddenly waking up a lot at night and crying. Your toddler, who’s been taking long naps each day for ages, suddenly begins resisting nap time, refusing to lie down and go to sleep. Sound familiar? You may be experiencing the 18 month sleep regression.
If you’re the parent of a toddler, then a sleep regression is something you’re probably familiar with. After all, you’ve no doubt experienced the following sleep regressions:
And if that’s not all, there’s a 2-year sleep regression, too!
So what’s a tired parent to do? This article will outline what the 18-month regression looks like, why it happens, why it can be one of the hardest, and steps you can take to survive it.
You May Also Be Interested In:
Toddler Sleep Secrets, a FREE e-Book by The Baby Sleep Site®
18 Month Sleep Regression Background:
What is a “Sleep Regression” Anyway?
Most people use sleep regression to mean that a baby or toddler, who’s been sleeping well, suddenly (often without any warning) begins waking frequently at night and/or refusing to nap during the day. These regressions usually last for a period of time (anywhere from 2 – 6 weeks). Then the baby’s sleep returns to its normal patterns. Toddler sleep regressions tend to be more challenging since toddlers are more vocal and more persistent.
18 Month Sleep Regression: Causes and Why 18 Months?
Every sleep regression can be connected to a baby’s mental and physical development at that particular age. The same is true of the 18-month regression. 18-month olds experience some developmental milestones that can negatively impact their sleep. Of course, as with all sleep regressions, this one can start early at 17 months old or as late as 19 or 20 months old. All children develop on their own unique timeline.
- Teething could be to blame. Around 18 months, children are cutting the 4 canine teeth as well as their first molars. This can cause discomfort that leads to disrupted sleep.
- Separation anxiety is still an issue for toddlers at 18 months. Most babies begin experiencing separation anxiety around 7 or 8 months, and for most babies, the anxiety is strongest from 10-18 months. This can lead to disrupted sleep as well — your toddler might resist naps because he doesn’t want to be away from you, or he may wake at night and become upset that you’re not in the room with him.
- 18 month olds are gaining lots of independence and are able to do more for themselves. Children at this age are learning to feed themselves with a spoon, drink from a cup, build with blocks, and even take off some articles of clothing. This growing independence can lead to a stronger will, which means a baby may start exerting herself when she doesn’t want to go to sleep or stay in bed.
- In my many many years of experience as a sleep consultant, I find that toddlers start getting hungry at night sometimes, again. You might need to consider whether meals need to be bigger or you need a bedtime snack. Toddlers, at this age can be VERY active!
- Schedules sometimes change around this age, too. While most toddlers are still napping 5 hours after waking up, there are some who can now stay awake a bit longer. Be sure to check out a few of our toddler schedules to make sure you are using the right one for your toddler.
18 Month Sleep Regression: Why It’s One Of The Hardest Sleep Regressions Of All
All sleep regressions are difficult and exhausting, but the 18-month sleep regression can be one of the hardest, for one simple reason. There’s a discipline factor involved in this regression that wasn’t present in the earlier ones. The previous regressions didn’t have anything to do with independence-seeking behavior on your baby’s part, but this one does.
Being sleep-deprived always makes parenting harder. Add to this the fact that your 18-month-old is likely starting to throw “temper tantrums” and exhibit challenging behavior as he strives for independence, and parenting can seem downright impossible! The stress of dealing with your toddler’s behavior compounds the exhaustion you’re already feeling.
What’s more, these two elements (your toddler’s newfound sleeplessness and your toddler’s more challenging behavior) can end up influencing each other. Your toddler’s willful behavior can lead him to refuse naps or to shriek for you each time he wakes at night. And of course, the lack of sleep caused by this regression can make your little one cranky, which leads to more tantrums and more temper.
18 Month Sleep Regression Tips and Hints
While there is no way to “fix” any sleep regression, including the 18-month sleep regression, there are steps you can take to minimize your baby’s sleeplessness (and your own!)
Again, part of the challenge of the 18-month sleep regression likely has to do with the fact that your toddler is heading into the “Terrible Twos” and is starting to show some independence-seeking behavior. This is the time to begin setting limits for your toddler and enforcing loving discipline. Not only will this help minimize sleeplessness, but it’ll also help you develop a good foundation. This foundation will make your baby’s twos and threes a little smoother!
Continue to follow your consistent bedtime routine as much as possible to promote good nights and longer naps. This is also a good time to reinforce a lovey or stuffed animal to ease any separation anxiety.
Should You Keep the Nap?
If your baby’s extremely resistant to naps during the 18-month sleep regression, you may feel tempted to just drop the nap altogether. Again, we recommend that you don’t. Most toddlers don’t drop their naps until between three and four years old, so don’t quit just yet!
Should You Stop Sleep Training?
If you’re in the midst of sleep training when the 18-month sleep regression hits, you may wonder if you should just throw in the towel for a while. We recommend that you don’t. Your toddler should still fall asleep as independently as possible. If your toddler wakes up in the middle of the night, they should fall back to sleep as independently as possible, too.
It’s true that sleep training likely won’t produce fantastic results during this phase, but remember that you don’t want to promote bad sleep habits during a stage that is ultimately temporary. As we tell many families, you don’t want to make or continue long-term habits for a short-term phase.
Fall back on old sleep coaching techniques, if necessary. If you have successfully sleep coached before, try implementing old sleep coaching techniques to get you through this phase. Sleep coaching techniques such as fading, check-and-console, or cry it out can help you survive the 18-month sleep regression without falling back into old patterns.
You May Also Be Interested In…
18 Month Sleep Regression Conclusion
Remember that the 18-month sleep regression is a phase that lasts for 3-6 weeks, on average. It can feel like an eternity when you’re enduring it and may have you feeling even less confident as a parent. But… it won’t last forever! If your baby normally sleeps well and you feel confident that her recent sleeplessness is due to the 18-month regression, be as patient as you can and wait it out.
For more details on handling the 18-month sleep regression, check out our special members-only resources in our VIP Members Area:
- 17 Month-Old Case Study – Transitioning from CoSleeping
- Sleep Regressions Audio Recording with Founder
- The 5-Step System To Better Toddler Sleep e-Book
- Chat live with a sleep consultant
242 thoughts on “18 Month Sleep Regression: Why It’s One of the Hardest and Tips to Handle”
Hello. Frustrated mama over here with a independent strong willed little girl who is just amazing but also has been fighting naps for about 3 months now. No sign of sickness or teeth coming in. She used to be rocked to sleep but that went out the window when i would rock her and go to lay her down and she’d pop right up and cry. And it’s not just a cry it’s a cry whine scream rolled into one very ungodly sound. I’ve been trying to get her energy out before nap time as much as i can. Some days she cries for an hour and passes out other days it seems like she can go on forever and doesn’t get a nap. And sometimes she cries for an hour and sleeps for 30 min which is not a good nap. Her room is dark she has a sound machine she has lavender she is tired for sure but 6 weeks have come and gone and she’s still fighting. Does anyone have mr. sandman’s sand because I’m out of ideas? I’ve tried sitting in her room with her and all she does is fidget and smile and play. Ideas? Thoughts? Solutions?
Hi @Brie –
Thank you for writing to us about your 18 month old! So sorry to hear that naps have been so rough for the last 3 months! I wish we had Mr. Sandman’s sand! If we did, we’d surely pass it along! What we do have is 10+ years of experience helping families just like yours!
We also offer free 15 minute telephone evaluations with an expert sleep consultant, which might be the perfect place to start! This can really give you good insight regarding when and how to work on sleep, and which package may be the best fit for you. If interested, please schedule your free 15 minute evaluation here:
And, when you are ready, you can read more about our sleep consultation services, and purchase here:
Thank you again for writing to us Brie, and hang in there. If you have any additional questions, or if you need any assistance at all, please let us know.
I have 17 month old year and he wakes up 2-3 times a night wanting something to drink. My husband and I take turns sleeping in the room with him to avoid a long walk from our room to his. He sleeps in his own crib just find and we sleep on a couch in his room. The problem is we have to break our sleep to get up and give him something to drink. This is extremely exhausting. I’m thinking my kid shouldn’t be this thirsty. The temperature in the room is between 71-73. I just need some tricks to keep him sleep through the night. I feel like I’m losing my mind due to sleep deprivation.
Hi @Ann –
Thank you for writing to us! Sorry to hear that sleep has been so rough with your little guy waking for a drink so often! Are you able to get a cup that will not spill that you can leave with him with some water in it? Perhaps he will not wake so often for a drink if it is self-serve rather than served by you? Many parents find a safe spill proof sippy cup that their toddler can have next to their bed, or even safely in the crib. Feel free to offer more water and high water content foods during the day to combat thirst through the night too! Good luck Ann!
Our almost 18 month old started last week with croup. We took him out of the crib and he slept with me on the couch so he can breathe. Since then we are not sleeping in the crib, first it was he was good for an hour or 2 and wakes up. Now he falls asleep on me and I go to put him in and he shoots right up and cries. He won’t go to his mom either and it’s been a trying week and a half. Only way he sleeps is if he’s on me. Will this stop?
Thanks for your comment – I’m so sorry to hear your little one was sick! Croup is awful. I hope he’s feeling a lot better now!
From your comment, it sounds like he may have just developed a sleep association to sleeping with you while he was sick. We have an article on sleep associations here if you need more information: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-association/
You can use any sleep coaching method of your choosing to start weaning the sleep association whenever your family is ready. I hope this helps!
Hello! I have a 17 1/2 month old son that has all together stopped taking his afternoon nap and prolongs bedtime for about 5 weeks now. It all started with an ear infection and constipation problems. He finished his antibiotic and has been taking a probiotic daily. He had a follow-up ped appointment to check if his ear infection had cleared up and it did. Not sure if it was the ear infection that started this sleeping problem or if it was in fact a sleep regression but even though he is now healthy, he is still not napping and prolonging bedtime. I try my hardest daily to put him down for a nap with no success. We have always had a good bedtime routine but now when I’m holding him, he just lays on me looking around. This goes on for at least a half hour before finally falling asleep. He will sleep all night and typically get about 11 hours of sleep. I can tell he is overly tired daily but he just will not nap and prolongs bedtime. Please help! Any and all advice is greatly appreciated! Thank you!
Hi @Angela – Thank you for writing to us about your toddler! I’m so sorry to hear that he’s had issues with his sleep and that this followed some health issues too! I’m glad that he’s feeling better and that his infection is all cleared up! It could have been the illness, or the 18 month sleep regression, or a bit of both that started this! Keep hanging in there, keep offering those naps, and don’t give up! Perhaps offering at the right time may help him fall asleep a bit more quickly? Please check out our free sample schedule here, for tips and recommendations:
If you ever need more help, please let us know Angela! We’re here if you need us!
Hello from an exhausted mom of a 19-month old. Are extended night wakings part of this sleep regression? Our normally great sleeper will frequently wake up in the night and happily stay awake for 2-3 hours. Please tell me that this too shall pass! ?
Thanks for writing, and sorry to hear that your 19 month old is having extended night wakings! These can be SO tough, so hang in there! We do help families with babies or toddlers who are waking for long periods in the night, and we know how exhausting this is! It may pass in time, but it’s not always so easy or quick to pass! Extended night wakings may also be caused by some other scheduling issues too. If this lingers, I’d recommend taking a good look at his overall schedule. This link to our free schedules should help:
If things don’t improve, and you’d like our help, please contact us for more info, or check out our one on one consulting options here:
We’d love to help!
Hang in there Kati!
Im in a similar situation with my son currently, but with a twist. He literally crys so hard that he pukes the entire bed. When he does this we of course have to go in, bathe him, clean and change the sheets, and start all over again. On a good day it takes us two hours of rocking to get this boy down. Hes usually asleep for half of it and the other half we are just trying to put him down, followed by screaming, and starting from scratch. I just dont know what to do anymore. I dont mjnd letting him cry it out, but now after 5 mins that means puke .Any advice would be appreciated.
Hi @Amanda –
Thank you for writing to us and I am SO sorry to hear that your son is getting so upset that he is vomiting! You’re not alone! We do hear this quite often, and we know how tough it is! Since things are so tough with getting him down, and crying leads to vomit, I’d recommend slowing things down and working on sleep a bit more gently, in hopes of reducing or removing the vomit from the equation! We can help with this and I’d recommend working with one of our experts who can create a Plan just for your family!
You can check out our consultation packages here:
Please contact us at any time with any questions, and hang in there Amanda!
Do you often/ever find the regression starts earlier than 18 months?
We are seeing all signs of a regression, but they started right around 16 months. It’s been going on for a few weeks, so we are just trying to ride it out, but I really hope this IS the 18m regression and we aren’t going to have to go through this again in a couple months (or that there isn’t a larger issue going on).
Hi @Anne – Thank you for writing to us! Sorry that your little one is not sleeping well! Yes! The 18 month sleep regression can come early, so hang in there! Hopefully things will smooth out soon, but we’re here if you do need more help at any time!
Hi. I have a 16 month old daughter. She’s been sleeping through the night but suddenly two weeks ago she started waking up in the middle of the night. Before that time period when she did I would go in her room offer her a pacifier and she would go back to sleep but now she’s totally awake standing up and crying if I put her down. We usually take her in our bed where she ll stay for about 2 hours awake before going back to sleep again. This is really exhausting for all of us.
Reading this article made me think: ive been waking her up from her naps after 1 hour so that shes tired at bedtime. Is that bad?
At this point I feel like this will never end and I question my parenting.
Hi @Nadia – Thanks for writing to us! Sorry to hear that your 16 month old has started waking in the night and staying awake for so long! We know how tough that is, and you’re not alone! This will in fact end, and please don’t question your parenting! You’re doing a great job – as evidenced by your concerns and desire to make things better! Regarding her naps, and how they might affect night sleep, you might want to check out our free sample schedules to make sure that she’s getting a good amount of sleep at good times for her. Here’s a link: https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/toddler-schedule/
Hopefully, some schedule adjustments will help!!
If you need more help at any time, please contact us for more info! Hang in there Nadia!
This makes me feel so much better! My daughter is 19 (almost 20) months but I believe she is going through the 18 month sleep regression now. She has always been a fantastic sleeper, sleeping 12-13 hours a night and taking a 1.5-3 hour naps during the day and she has been doing so without waking up for several months. Well that was until Monday night. Since Monday she has been waking much more, crying, throwing fits, and is difficult to put to sleep for naps and bedtime. She even skipped her nap today after my husband tried for 2 hours to get her down. I had no idea what was happening but it sounds exactly like the 18 month regression. Hopefully it doesn’t last long!
Oh, I’m so glad you found this article and we were able to help reassure you! Based on your description, that definitely sounds like the 18 month sleep regression! You can always doublecheck that she doesn’t have an ear infection or something else going on, but otherwise, it tends to last from 2-4 weeks. If you’re still seeing symptoms at that point, please get back in touch – there may be tweaks to your schedule or sleep routine that a sleep consultant could guide you through to help your daughter sleep better. Hang in there, and good luck!
My little girl is 19 months and i think she is going through the sleep regression (well I hope this is what it is). Yesterday she woke up at 4.45am, monday morning was 3.45am and tonight she has woken up at 11.45pm and refuses to go back to sleep without us in her room. We leave the room and she screams. She is otherwise a good sleeper and goes down on her own and will sleep through from 6.45/7pm – 5.45-6am with a 1.5-2hr nap.
Once I have checked that she is ok (nappy fine and no temperature) do I leave her and eventually she will get bored and settle?
Look forward to hearing from you
Thanks and merry Christmas!
Hi @Natalie –
Thank you for writing and so sorry to hear that your toddler is having such sleep issues! We know how tough this time can be, so hang in there! There are different ways that you can help, and you might want to look into these a little more before taking action when she wakes. Here is a great “cheat sheet” on our blog that should be helpful:
If you’d like more help to walk you through this, please consider one of our one on one consulting packages or our VIP Members Area! We’d love to help! Feel free to contact us at any time with questions, and happy holidays!!
My daughter is 18 months and she usually sleeps good through the night. She falls asleep in the living room while I watch tv and I then take her to her room, where she usually stays until the following day.
It’s been 2-3 weeks that she doesn’t want to sleep in her room. If I try to pick her up from the living room couch, where she Falls asleep, she wakes up and starts crying pointing at the couch. I’m stressing out because this wasn’t a problem before. Even for naps, if I try to take her to her room, she wakes up when I put her down in her crib and starts crying and points at the door, that she wants to go back to the living room. Please help!!
Thank you so much for your comment! I’m sorry that you’re dealing with the 18 month sleep regression and this difficulty helping your daughter sleep in her room. You may want to review our article on sleep associations here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-association/
I hope that helps, but please let us know if we can be of further help! Good luck!
Comments are closed.