Oh, parents – I’m so sorry to have to break this news. After three (yes, THREE) sleep regressions, you’re not done yet. 🙁 And the 18 month sleep regression? Yeah…it’s one of the worst second only to the 8 month sleep regression.
BUT that doesn’t mean that you’re powerless in the face of the 18 month sleep regression – not at all! We’re always here for you, readers – even in the face of one of the toughest sleep regressions you’ll face.
18 Month Old Toddler Sleep Regression: What It Looks Like
Basically, you’ll know you’re facing the 18 month sleep regression when your toddler, who was sleeping just fine, thankyouverymuch, is suddenly NOT sleeping so fine. You will probably see shorter and more erratic naps, more bedtime drama, increased night waking, and/or really early-morning wake-ups.
Since lists are nice, when you’re trying to troubleshoot, you can also be on the lookout for these signs:
- Increased fussiness and crying (aka major crankiness!)
- Changes in appetite
- Extra clinginess and a need for more cuddle time
18 Month Old Toddler Sleep Regression: Why It Happens
If you remember, the 8/9/10 month sleep regression was the result of a ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances – at that age, your baby’s mobility and physical skills were just exploding, which led to disrupted sleep. Well, 18 months presents another ‘perfect storm’ – only this time, it’s a perfect storm of discipline issues! At 18 months, your toddler is no doubt learning that she can say ‘no’ to mommy and daddy (and say it LOUDLY at that) – and that defiance most definitely carries over to bedtime. While this growing independence isn’t all bad, by any means (this independent streak is also what will prompt her to learn how to put on her own shoes, and feed herself with a spoon), but it can lead to way more battles of will over things like bedtime and nap time.
And here’s what’s SUPER tricky about this: these two elements (your toddler’s newfound sleeplessness and your toddler’s newfound stubbornness and defiance) can end up influencing each other. Your toddler’s willful behavior can lead him to refuse naps or to shriek stubbornly 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 temper fits. It can turn into a vicious cycle of overtiredness and tantrums.
No wonder so many of our clients with 18 month olds report feeling like they’re nearing their breaking point!
Of course, the 18 month regression isn’t just about behavior issues – there are other factors in play here, too:
- 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 baby may 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 Old Toddler Sleep Regression: 10 Survival Techniques
We first shared our 7 tips for 18 month sleep regression survival over on hintmama.com – check out the full list there!
For a quick, at-a-glance list of 10 tricks you can use to survive the 18 month regression – keep reading!
- Try a sticker chart to increase bedtime and nap time cooperation. Stickers hold great weight with most toddlers, so try using them as an incentive to help your toddler cooperate at bedtime and at nap time.
- Strengthen your bedtime routine, and give it a definitive end. Good bedtime routines are fairly short and VERY consistent. They also have a definite end – you might end with the same short song, or the same good night phrase. This is a strong signal to your toddler that it’s time for sleep.
- Try a lovey. If you haven’t given your toddler a comfort object, or a lovey, yet, this is a great time to start. If your 18 month old has something to keep in bed that feels cozy and comforting, it can minimize how often he calls for you at night or at nap time.
- Be prepared to offer extra naps (if she skips her usual ones) or an earlier bedtime. Part of the 18 month sleep regression involves fighting sleep (because what self-respecting toddler wants to sleep when she can play? ;)), so be ready to help your toddler compensate for missed sleep, in an effort to avoid overtiredness. (Just be sure that all naps are over by 6 p.m.).
- Offer a bedtime snack. Sometimes, a legitimate growth spurt can overlap with the 18 month sleep regression, so offering a high-protein bedtime snack can help to ward off middle-of-the-night hunger. Just make sure to brush teeth after snack time, and before bed!
- Offer a nightlight. By 18 months, your toddler may start having nighttime fears, so a very soft nightlight can provide a little reassurance.
- Offer simple explanations. Your toddler obviously isn’t at the age yet where you can hold real conversations, but it can be helpful to give your toddler reasons for WHY he needs to go to bed and get enough sleep. Keep your explanations simple, of course, and avoid over-explaining yourself (remember, your toddler is the king/queen of “but why?”) – but some simple explanations can help defuse sleep time drama.
- Don’t undo all your hard work. That is to say, if you’ve worked on sleep training, don’t go back to old sleep associations! Instead, comfort your toddler by doing mini-versions of whatever they find comforting. For instance, maybe hold your toddler when he wakes fussing, but hold him for a few minutes, instead of holding him all the way to sleep. Or lie down with him in his room, but be sure to leave before he falls asleep. This will provide comforting without creating new, bad sleep habits.
- Create firm ‘will’ and ‘will not’ boundaries, and then reinforce them for your toddler. For example, if your toddler isn’t allowed to sleep in your bed, then be sure to reinforce that even in the midst of the 18 month sleep regression. If you’ve decided for yourself that when your toddler cries for you at night, you’re going to wait 5 minutes before going into her room, then stay consistent with that.
- Be prepared to re-train, if necessary. Even small things, like a short cold, can throw off your child’s normally-great sleeping patterns. So it’s no wonder that a big sleep regression can do big damage! Don’t worry, though – you can get back on track. Give the regression a few weeks to sort itself out; at that point, if your toddler is still struggling with sleep, do some sleep training to get things back on track (trust me, it will most likely be a lot easier this time than it was the first time around!).
For more details on handling the 18 month sleep regression, check out our special VIP members-only resources in our Member’s Area:
- Top 4 Toddler Sleep Questions Answered
- 17 Month-Old Case Study – Transitioning from CoSleeping
- Sleep Regressions audio course
- The 5-Step System To Better Toddler Sleep e-Book
18 Month Sleep Regression Help That’s Guaranteed To Work
Toddler sleep problems are definitely solvable – but they can be TOUGH to solve on your own. So why not connect with one of our caring, compassionate sleep consultants, and get expert answers to your nap questions today?
Browse our list of consultation package options here.
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57 thoughts on “18 Month Old Toddler Sleep Regression: 10 Survival Techniques”
Hi my 18 month old boy has never been a good sleeper at night but the last few months has been really bad
The only way I can get him to settle though night is if he’s in the same bed has me
Iv tryed just leaving him to cry that dint work
Iv tryed singing to him reading to him feeding and changing him just seems like nothing is working
Iv been trying everything I can since it started and still not improved
Hi @Abi – Thanks for writing to us! I’m sorry that sleep has always been so tough with your 18 month old! Toddler sleep can be so tricky! Since you’ve already been trying everything you can, and to no avail, I’d really recommend getting some one on one help from one of our expert sleep consultants. She can work with you to create a Plan that you can feel good about and commit to! You can read about all of our sleep consultation packages and purchase directly online here:
https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/ Hang in there Abi! We’re here for you and here to help!
Many toddlers go through sleep regressions at different points during their growth and development. If your 18-month-old suddenly has trouble falling asleep, starts resisting naps or sleep, or has frequent nighttime awakenings, he or she may be experiencing a sleep regression.
So true @Costumelooks!
My son is currently going through the 18-month regression, and it’s so not fun! Our normal bedtime routine has been consistent and it includes me nursing him to sleep. Right now he seems to be indifferent to nursing since nothing will really soothe him to sleep (he fights it, wants to play, etc) Is this a good time to try and wean him? Or should I wait until the sleep regression is over?
Thank you for checking out The Baby Sleep Site! I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble with the regression – this is the toughest one, I think! Generally, we do not recommend weaning during a regression since everything’s already hard enough, but if your son is self-weaning during this time, you can certainly take his lead if you want to. There’s no harm in trying, it’s just up to your family whether the possible upset is worth it to you at this time 🙂 I hope that helps, and good luck with everything!
Hi there, we are currently on week 4 of the 18th month sleep regression…I think? It’s been the worst one by far! My son is/was a good sleeper, going to bed around 7:30pm and waking around 6:30/7:00am. He caught on quickly when we did sleep training and has been great at naps too. But the dreaded 18 month sleep regression hit and he’s been waking up once at night but luckily will go back to sleep on his own after I cuddle him for a few minutes. To top if off we are also on day three of no naps! Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Help!
@Amanda – Thank you for reading and for sharing! Yes, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! This regression is SERIOUSLY HARD but not developing any “new” habits will go a long way to him getting back on track once it passes. It’s tough and stressful, we know, but hang in there!
Only once a night? Count yourself lucky. I don;t think my 18 month has EVER slept fully through the night. it seems like a constant regression since day one. I am thankful if she only wakes up 2-3 times a night. I don’t even know what to do anymore.
Hey @Tired Dad – Thanks for your comment, and so sorry to hear that your little one is still waking so often at 18 months old! We know how tough this can be! It sounds like you’ve been struggling with this and working on this for a while now, and just about at the end of your rope! We can help! You can read about all of our sleep consultation packages and purchase directly online here:
If you want to hear from some of the many families we’ve helped, in their own words, you can read our parent stories here:
Hang in there Tired Dad!!
Hello, I am having so much trouble with our 17month old. He used to be a pretty good sleeper where he’d sleep 7.30pm – 7.30pm rarely waking. I have a newborn and since before he was born my eldest has been waking up in the middle of the night wide awake and staying awake for a long period of time (one night it was 4hrs). Now he fights and screams going to bed. He screams so much that we have to pick him up and take him out of his room as he just won’t settle. The only thing we have found hat actually settles him is to watch tv. This obviously isn’t ideal but with a newborn we are at wits end. We have tried to move his nap from 11am to a later time of 12pm but finding it is not making an impact. We are also struggling with tantrums and changes in his eating (he used to eat anything I gave him). How long do regressions usually last? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
Hi @Jess, thank you for writing to us. I’m so sorry to hear you’re struggling with your toddler’s sleep. That is a big challenge with a newborn, and so I understand the feeling of needing to be in survival mode and just do whatever works. This is a challenging age without throwing in the dynamic of becoming a big brother! Here is a link to a free guide with tips on toddler sleep: https://www.babysleepsite.com/toddler-sleep-tips
I do think that you would benefit from working with one of our sleep consultants on this if things don’t resolve on their own soon. Usually regressions last a couple of weeks, tops, but you do have to be careful to not start any bad habits that he will start to demand to continue. If things don’t pass quickly or you’re just at your wits end, let us know! Here is a link to view our different options to working with one of our sleep consultants: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting- services/
Hang in there!
My daughter is 16 month ild and for the last month she will not sleep through the night she has never slept a full night on her own since been born. Unless she is with me she currently shares a bedroom with her sister who is 3 in july i have tried every trick in the book to try and get her to sleep through the night i am totally confused on what to do next , even during the day if i walk out of the room she screams its becoming a big problem for the family as my other 2 children are getting ignored please any advice would be great to help me get her into a good bedtime routine. I have tried to put her in her own room to fall asleep left her to cry sat next to the bed everything and nothing work
@Robyn Gregory, I’m so sorry to hear you’re struggling so much with your daughter’s sleep. We would love to help. Since it sounds like you’ve tried everything you know to do, and I’m sure you’ve had success with your other two children, I would highly suggest working with one of our sleep consultants. They can look at the full picture of what’s going on and offer advise to help your family get through this so everyone is sleeping better again, and so your days are less stressful. To read about our one-on-one consultation options you can do so here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting- services/
You of course are also welcome to email us directly at [email protected] if you have any more questions about how our consultation works or what other resources we have available. Hang in there!
My 17 month old normally does great at bedtime. The past week has been awful when trying to put her down. Her bedtime routine has not changed at all. Now when we put her down she lays down for about 10 minutes like she’s going to go to sleep but then pops back up. She stands and screams and cries. We have tried to let her cry it out but after about 30 mins she starts getting really upset so we have to go in. We read her a book and put her down again and she will cry again for about 10 minutes then falls asleep. I’m not sure why this has started to Happen. Bedtime now takes over an hour… please help a tired mama out.
Hi @Alisha, thanks for writing to us. I’m sorry you’ve suddenly been struggling with her bedtime! Hopefully it is just the 18 month regression and that this will pass in the next few weeks. Has she transitioned to one nap yet? This can be a tricky transition for a lot of babies and may also be having an impact on her night time sleep. If the problem persists and don’t go back to normal soon, let us know. If that’s the case I do think you’d benefit speaking with a sleep consultant who can look at her full schedule and sleep history and can make specific suggestions from there. If it comes to that (and hopefully it doesn’t) here’s the link to read more about our different options: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/
Hang in there!
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