5 Things You Need to Know About Your 2 Year Old’s Sleep

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If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’re likely no stranger to the concept of sleep regressions. You’ve probably experienced them first-hand, right? 😉 If you’re new here, and you haven’t yet heard about sleep regressions or the 2 year sleep regression, let us fill you in. A sleep regression refers to a period of time when a baby or toddler who’s been sleeping well suddenly begins waking at night and during naptime or even refusing to go to sleep at all.

There are several distinct regression phases that most babies and toddlers experience: one at 4 months, another at 8, 9, or 10 months, a third around 18 months, and (as if three weren’t enough!) a final one around 2 years. This article will focus on some of the challenges surrounding your 2 year old’s sleep, including elements that are part of the 2 year sleep regression.

5 Facts About Your 2 Year Old’s Sleep

2 year sleep regression1: Your 2 year old’s awake time is longer.

As your toddler grows, she needs progressively less sleep than she did as an infant. Most 2 year olds need approximately 12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, on average. Compare that to a newborn’s need for about 16 hours of sleep! And of course, most of your toddler’s sleep is happening at night now. You may also find that your 2 year old is showing more resistance to bedtime than usual, and that she’s falling asleep late. Or, she may be waking too early. All this adds up to equal less downtime (and maybe less sleep!) for you.

Nicole’s note:
“We start getting a lot of e-mails around this time of year that toddlers are beginning to “fight bedtime.” Here in the States, when we are approaching summer, it stays light later and this can directly influence your toddler’s internal clock. Nights may get shorter, but this is temporary! She may truly be unable to fall asleep at an earlier time.”

2: Your 2 year old’s separation anxiety may resurface around this time.

Separation anxiety peaks around 18 months, but it can appear off and on until your child is 5 or 6 (or maybe even after! Yikes!!) At age 2, separation anxiety can be based on actual fear. Your 2 year old may be afraid to be left alone, or with people he doesn’t know. However, it can also come from a desire not to miss out on the fun! By now, your 2 year old knows that when you leave, you don’t just disappear. Instead, he knows that you’re off somewhere not far away, having (in his mind, at least) tons of fun without him. Understandably, he doesn’t want to be left out! If this separation anxiety surfaces as soon as you walk out the door during naptime and/or bedtime, it can disrupt your toddler’s sleep.

Nicole’s note:
“Many parents report they have to, all of a sudden, stay with their 2 year old as she falls asleep at nap and bedtime. This is SO common!”

3: Your 2 year old may suddenly stop napping.

Around 2 years of age, some toddlers abruptly stop taking an afternoon nap. You might find that when you put your 2 year old down for her nap, she spends the entire hour talking/laughing/singing/playing. Or, you may find that your 2 year old’s nap resistance isn’t nearly so pleasant. She may spend the whole hour screaming! As with separation anxiety, this sudden resistance to naps can come from your 2 year old’s desire not to miss out on anything. It can also be the result of her growing self-awareness and independence. She’s becoming more aware of what she wants. If she doesn’t want to lie down for a nap, she’s going to let you know it!

We advise parents to treat this sudden naptime resistance as a regression, and not as something permanent. Most children won’t completely give up their naps until 3 or 4. It’s best to simply stay consistent with your 2 year old’s schedule and routine, and to not give up on the nap just yet.

Nicole’s note:
“All 2 year olds are different, of course. We, personally, had to stop allowing a nap around 2 1/2, because my son’s awake time approached 7 hours after nap and was waking up at 3pm. You can do the math. It was after my bedtime!”

4: Your 2 year old may be going through some transitions that disrupt sleep.

There are a few common transitions your 2 year old may be experiencing:

  • Moving to a big boy / big girl bed: Although more children make this transition closer to age 3, some toddlers make this step at age 2. This new sleeping arrangement can make it harder for your 2 year old to sleep well at night and for naps, since the new bed is unfamiliar. You may also find your 2 year old taking advantage of his new-found freedom and getting out of bed often. This happens even when you’ve told him again and again to stay put! (A side note: Whether you do it age 2 or wait a bit longer, when the time does come to make the move to a big kid bed, we recommend that you toddler proof your toddler’s room carefully.)
  • Potty training: Again, most children aren’t potty trained until age 3 (or even later.) But some parents begin the potty training process around age 2. If your 2 year old is in the midst of potty training, you may find her waking from sleep and needing to use the potty. Even those 2 year olds who haven’t begun potty training yet are becoming more aware of their bodily functions. It’s not uncommon for toddlers this age to wake early in the morning from a full bladder or needing to poop. And by age 2, most children are much more aware of the uncomfortable feeling that a full diaper causes.
  • New sibling: Of course, this doesn’t apply to all 2 year olds, but around age 2, some children are preparing for or adjusting to having a new brother or sister around. This is a huge change for toddlers, and (as with all major changes) it can cause lots of anxiety for them. Couple that with the fact that the new baby is likely causing some anxiety for you, too (as you work to juggle multiple schedules). This can mean that no one is getting much sleep!

Nicole’s note:
“We potty trained around 2 1/2 with both boys (which was late for one and a good age for the other). You might remember my article about potty training my second son, here: 6 ways Potty Training is Like Sleep Training.”

5: Your 2 year old may begin having nighttime fears.

By age 2, your toddler is becoming much more imaginative. This makes for really fun and entertaining play, but boy, can it ever be a problem at night! Most 2 year olds’ nighttime fears are triggered by the dark, and all the things that come with it — spooky shadows, monsters lurking under the bed, etc. By this age, toddlers are growing more aware of the world and realizing that there are “bad guys” and things out there that can hurt them. These new nighttime fears can lead to things like nightmares, and even night terrors.

Nicole’s note:
“My eldest (who inspired this blog) began to be afraid of dinosaurs, no matter how many times I tried to define the word ‘extinct’. 🙂 These aren’t always rational fears to us adults, but very real to them, so be patient and empathetic.”

As with any regression or phase, the best thing to do when you encounter these problems is to cope as best you can. Work hard to stay consistent, and try to remind yourself that it won’t last forever. 🙂 Keep in mind, too, that you don’t want your toddler to form any bad habits while you’re working on getting through the 2 year sleep regression. Let this guide your decisions about how you’re going to cope. As Nicole always says, “You don’t want to make or continue long-term habits for a short-term phase.”

Finally, if you’re doing your best to cope with your 2 year old’s terrible sleep but are finding yourself at the end of your rope, consider contacting us. We have the products and services you need to get your 2 year old sleeping well again.

Toddler Sleep Training SecretsWant FREE sleep help that you can put to use right away? Download a copy of our free guide, Toddler Sleep Secrets! The guide is available to download instantly, which means you can start using the techniques in it as early as tonight. So download now, and start helping your toddler through the 2 year sleep regression today!

Did your 2-year-old experience any of these sleep challenges?

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239 thoughts on “5 Things You Need to Know About Your 2 Year Old’s Sleep”

  1. My son is 23 months and fighting bedtime. He’s able to climb out of the crib despite lowering it to the lowest possible. We keep putting him back into the crib when he climbs out. We’re at lost since now it can take almost an hour until he falls asleep. He takes a nap around 11am daily for about 1-2 hours depending on the day and goes to bed at 8pm. Appreciate any advice you can give us on how to get him to sleep!

    • Hi @Christine –
      Thanks for writing! I’m sorry that you’re struggling with your toddler’s sleep, and especially that he’s climbing out of his crib too! That makes it so much tougher!! We’d love to help!
      This article is a great place to start:

      For additional help, I would recommend that you consider our e-Book, The 5 Step System to Better Toddler Sleep. It is written specifically to help parents of toddlers with all different types of sleep issues. The book includes a number of detailed sample schedules, sleep planning worksheets and sleep logs, and more!

      You can find out more about this, and order the e-Book directly online here:
      When you visit that page, you will see that there are two options. One option is our “Silver Package” which includes the instant 5 Step System to Better Toddler Sleep e-Book download, an in depth case study, and two informative audio tele-seminars. Our other option is a “Gold Package” which includes everything in the “Silver Package” plus two additional audio tele-seminars, and an Express Sleep Plan, which is an instant and customized plan specific to your family’s history, your family’s philosophies, and your specific goals.

      We hope that this is helpful Christine, and please let us know if you have additional questions at any time! We’d love to help you get better sleep right away!

  2. My 2years and 3 month old who was pretty good at napping and would actually start running towards the bed when I yell “nap time” suddenly just started yesterday to refuse to nap followed by this afternoon also (two days in a row) and I am concered. We do have a 2.5 month newborn in the house which she has been really great with so I am not sure if this sudden change in her temperament during nap time is due to a new sibling in the house. When I put her down for nap, she would whine for 20 minutes in addition to another 20 minutes of yelling and crying before I take her out of her bed. The first day I walked in a couple of times to redirect her to go to bed, today I left her there for about 20 minutes before I went and took her out. So due to her missing an hour of nap yesterday and today, I put her down an hour early to go to sleep in the evening.She got her full 12 hours of sleep last night. I don’t know if this was a good idea, or what I should do next. Help!

    • Hi @Belina!
      Thank you for writing to us! Sorry to hear that you’re having naptime struggles with your 2 year old! This is VERY common, so you’re not alone!! We call this a “nap strike” and they are common for our toddlers!! Keep offering those naps, and don’t give up on them yet! And just as you have – on days where she skips the nap, offer an earlier bedtime to help with overtiredness. You may also want to let her know that even if she doesn’t fall asleep, that this is rest time, and give her a set time before you’ll come and get her up. This may help her to not fight it as much, and hopefully allow her to fall asleep. If things don’t smooth out, please contact us for more help! Hang in there Belina!

  3. My 2 year old was fighting a bad cold and the doctor recommended we co-sleep with us until his cough was over to monitor his breathing. Now a week later he goes to sleep in his crib but wakes up in the middle of the night and refuses to sleep in his crib. Constantly crying and screaming for us to bring him to our bed. Anyway, to help him sleep thru the night in his room? Thank you.

  4. Hello! My son is 2 years 1 month. He has been an incredible sleeper his whole life. We followed babywise and he has done very well with overnight sleep, eating, development, growth etc. less than a dozen wake ups after 11 weeks!

    For 3-4 weeks, he has been taking naps that are less than 40 minutes in duration. He normally goes to bed at 7 and wakes at 6:15/6:30 and I get him at 7. His nap starts around 12:30. We do quiet calm activities before napping like reading, white noise, dim room etc. he is not teething, sick or hungry.

    I’ve also tried scaling back his nighttime sleep so he doesn’t get too much and is sufficiently tired for his nap. He is not ready to drop his nap and wAkes from that short time upset. He needs the sleep. I am consistent and all naps are taken in the crib. No stroller naps ever.

    Do you think I should be cutting his nighttime sleep? Or is this making it worse? At the risk of being hated by everyone, we’ve never experienced a true regression until now!

    So my question to you is- WHY WONT HE NAP AND WHAT DO I DO? Thank you for your help 🙂

    • Hi @Kristen – Thank you for writing to us, and I’m sorry to hear about your 2 years old’s rough sleep lately! As you likely read in this article, it is very common for new 2 year olds to start really fighting naps! Keep offering those naps and don’t give up! Use our free sample schedules to help you plan bedtime and wake time too, to be sure that he’s getting a good amount of sleep offered at the right times:
      If you find that you need more help at any time, please contact us for assistance!! Hang in there Kristen!

      • Thank you for responding, Debbye! Do you recommend that I cut his night sleep to make sure he is tired enough for a 2 hour nap? His bedtime was 7, falling asleep at 7:45 or so, but ever since he’s been taking short naps he’s falling asleep earlier. I wonder if he needs less sleep at night to be adequately tired for his nap. Would love to hear your thoughts. I looked at the schedule and he is 7-7 with a 12:30 nap yielding short naps. Thanks again!

      • Hi Kristen,
        Thanks for visiting us! We’re happy to help 🙂 Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to your question! If your son is getting enough sleep overall, a short nap might be fine. If he’s not sleeping enough, you might want to talk with a sleep consultant (with a consultation or through the Members Chat, depending on how much help you need), to see how to best adapt his schedule. It really can depend on so many factors. Good luck!

  5. My 26 month old use to sleep through the night but now he will wake up around 2am and not want to go back to sleep. I get up every half an hour to put him down in his crib until he doesn’t want to get put down anymore. I end up rocking him until he does fall asleep and then at this point its 4:30am and I have to get up for work at 5am. He will still be sleeping by the time I have to get him up and he gets super cranky because he is still tired. This has been going on for a few weeks now.

    • Hi @Nicole – Thank you for writing to us and I am SO sorry to hear how rough sleep has become with your 2 year old!! PUtting him back to bed every half hour for so many hours is brutal – specially since you have to wake up at 5am! Hang in there Nicole!! For help with this, I would recommend that you consider our e-Book, The 5 Step System to Better Toddler Sleep. It is written specifically to help parents of toddlers with sleep issues. The book includes a number of detailed sample schedules, as well as an explanation of the various sleep coaching methods for you to start right away. It also contains several sleep planning worksheets to help you make a plan!
      You can find out more about this, and order the e-Book directly online here:
      When you visit that page, you will see that there are two options. One option is our “Silver Package” which includes the instant 5 Step System to Better Toddler Sleep e-Book download, an in depth case study, and two informative audio tele-seminars. Our other option is a “Gold Package” which includes everything in the “Silver Package” plus two additional audio tele-seminars, and an Express Sleep Plan, which is an instant and customized plan specific to your family’s history, your family’s philosophies, and your specific goals.
      We hope that this is helpful for you Nicole, and please let us know if you have additional questions at any time!

  6. My daughter’s is 25 months old. For the past few weeks, bedtime has been a nightmare. She throws everything out of her crib, then jumps up and down and cries. She also has resisted nap time so she hasn’t had a nap in a while. What do I do?!

    • Hi @Megan – Thanks for writing to us! Sorry that sleep has become so tough these past few weeks with your 2 year old’s sleep! Don’t give up on those naps quite yet, and keep being consistent and offering her sleep at the right times! Regarding the toys being thrown out of the crib, if you’re consistent with your response to this too, she’ll likely slow or stop this behavior! We know how tough this is, so hang in there Megan! If you find that you’d like more help, please contact us for more info!

  7. Hello,
    For the last 3-5 weeks my two year old (26 months) has been waking earlier than normal. Before he was consistently going to bed at 7pm and not waking until at least 6.45am, sometimes later. He has a nap of 1.25-1.5 hours around 12/12.30pm every day. He can now wake any time from 6am. How can I ensure he wakes later? He’s quite obviously tired in the mornings if he wakes before 6.30am but he’s has begun singing loudly whenever he wakes! Should I adjust his bed time? We tried putting him to bed earlier when it started, he was in bed by 6.50am and it improved a bit but not much!

    • Hi @Sarah –
      Thanks for writing, and sorry that you’re struggling with your 2 year old’s early waking! We know how tough this can be. Toddler sleep can be so challenging, and early mornings where he’s still tired are especially challenging I’m sure!!
      You may want to check out our free sample schedules for toddlers here, and see if adjusting bedtime or naptime helps:
      Good luck Sarah, and please contact us if you need more help!

    • Hi. You say be consistently but you don’t say HOW to deal with this regression. My son is waking around 4am. I bring him into my bed, give bottle of milk but he is wide awake and don’t sleep again. I don’t know if this is the right way to deal with the early wakings

      • Hi @Carly – Thanks for writing! Sorry to hear that your toddler is waking at 4 am! hat can be so tough and we understand!! If this has been happening for more than a few weeks, you may need to take a look at his schedule to make sure that he’s getting the right amount of sleep at good times for him. He may be over or under tired. Taking him into your bed is okay if that is working for you, but it doesn’t sound like its going well – especially if he’s not going back to sleep! You may want to teach him that it’s still sleep time and not worth waking for, and do some sleep coaching to help him learn this. Making a plan that will work and that you can stick with is important, and we can help with that! Please get in touch with us if you’d like some recommendations on next steps for personalized help! Hang in there Carly!

  8. My toddler was the BEST sleeper until about a week before we had a new baby. He would sleep from 7:45-7:30 and lay in his bed for a half hour (by choice) after he woke up, with a 2 hour nap from 1-3. He now screams when we leave the room, and will not sleep unless myself or my husband are physically in the room where he can see us. He tried CIO but he cried for over an hour. Is this just a phase? Should we just wait it out? His past sleep regressions only lasted about 2 weeks, and we are approaching the 2 week mark. With a newborn in the house and him not sleeping, my husband and I are dying.

    • Hi @Carly – Thanks for writing to us! Congrats on the arrival of your new family member, and at the same time, I’m sorry to hear that your toddler’s sleep has been tough since your new arrival was about to arrive! Since he was a great sleeper prior to this, he may just need a little more time to adjust! This article has some helpful tips, and it’s not too late to start on them!:
      Good luck Carly! I hope he’s sleeping well soon – and I hope you are too!

    • I am having the exact same issue with my 27 month old daughter. I am due a baby in a week and for the past few weeks my daughter has been protesting going to sleep so much that we thought perhaps she was too big for her cot (she is very tall for her age) so we moved her to a bed… but of course now she just gets out. My husband or I have to sit in the room until she falls asleep and she now comes into our room during the night. She has always been the absolute best sleeper ever (always happy to go to bed, sleeping 12 hours and never waking at night) I just don’t understood what’s going on… and the timing is horrendous! Unfortunately there hasn’t been much actual advise offered here!

      • Hi Sharon,
        Thanks for writing, and congratulations on your soon-to-be new addition! I’m sorry to hear you’ve been struggling with bedtimes, and also that you’ve been having trouble finding the answer. The reason we don’t have a slam-dunk answer for you is that there unfortunately just isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for this kind of problem! Toddlers this age can have trouble with bedtime for all kinds of reasons, including an inappropriate feeding or sleeping schedule, sleep associations, something wrong in the bedtime routine, a medical condition, potty training, separation anxiety, sleep regressions, and more. You can read more on our site and others and try to work out the problem, and then use all of our free articles to create a new sleep plan and get your daughter’s sleep back on track. We also offer personalized consultation packages which are unique to your baby and family and can help you solve all of the individual circumstances that might be contributing to your situation. I know it can be so frustrating, but please hang in there, and let us know if we can help! Good luck!

      • I had the same issue with my toddler. I put a child gate on her door and there was one night that she woke up and cried and I put her back to bed. One night where she had fallen asleep on the floor by the gate but after those two she now doesn’t bother getting out of bed because she can see the gate and knows she can’t get out.
        Hope that helps.

  9. Our son just turned two a month ago. He was sleeping super well in a crib, but we had to transition because he was climbing and falling out and we were afraid he would hurt himself. We have a strong bedtime routine (regular bedtime, bath, brush teeth, read, then sing) we’ve continued, but now he sounds like he is doing a bunch of typical two year old traits. He keeps trying to trying to prolong bedtime and wants me to stay with him until he falls asleep. I usually do because he will get out of bed and start crying if I don’t. I might have to lay down with him for an hour to get him to sleep, but I also have a four year old I need to put down to bed too so this isn’t really working. Our two year old will wake up about 2am and cry for me to come back and sleep with him. I will lay down for a little to get him back to sleep, but the same thing just happens a couple hours later so I will go into his room multiple times a night. I just end up sleeping in his bed with him. If I do end up sleeping with him, he will sleep in until 8, but if I don’t, he will wake up around 6am which makes him a little cranky and throws off his nap time.

    My biggest concern is I can’t continue this since I’m pregnant and due in about 8 weeks.

    Is there a way I can help him sleep more independently? I know he must be experiencing separation anxiety or maybe afraid, but I just can’t continue this especially with a newborn almost here.

    Thank you for any help you could offer!

    • Hi @Stefanie – Thanks for writing to us, and sorry that sleep with your 2 year old has become so tough! We definitely understand how tiring this can be, especially while pregnant (and congrats on your upcoming arrival too!). Toddler issues just like this are common at this age! It sounds like you need some help to get bedtime and night wakings under control, and we can help with that! I’d recommend that you consider one on one help with an email or phone + email consultation package, so that your consultant get dive in and help you through this with a completely personalized Plan made just for you! Please check out our options here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/services/
      Hang in there Stefanie, and I hope that we can have the opportunity to help you through this!

    • I have same issue with my two year old. He will lay down and go right to sleep at bed time or when he wakes up in middle of night (if) I lay on floor or sit in chair until he is asleep. Tried the keep coming back every few minutes and he cries less but more than 30 days in and he still cries every night and fights it unless I am in room and it has to be me for some reason he will not lay down or calm down to sleep for my wife and gets mad if she tries to sit in his room or lay on floor next to crib. It has to be me so I give in and stay with him just because he sleeps better and does not fight sleeping if I do so and is instantly at peace and calm if I am with him. He says night night daddy like he thinks bed time is an “us” thing not a him thing. Assume this is were problem stems but after 30 days and him still crying when I leave room it’s just easier to lay on floor or sit in chair to comfort him

      • His routine and schedule are completely consistent every night. Bath, story time and bed time. Naps at school everyday. No Major changes Or adjustments. Not potty training yet and Still in crib. Recently started having night terrors once in a while and waking up more frequently at night. Usually at least two times once asleep.

      • Hi @Marcus – Thanks for writing to us! Sorry to hear that you’re struggling with the same toddler sleep issues with your 2 year old!
        For help with this, I’d recommend that you consider our e-Book, The 5 Step System to Better Toddler Sleep. The book includes a number of detailed sample schedules, as well as an explanation of the various sleep issues such as this one, and how you can handle it, step by step! It also contains several sleep planning worksheets and sleep logs.
        You can find out more about this, and order the e-Book directly online here:
        PLease contact us if you need any additional help at any time, and thanks again for writing to us Marcus!

  10. My daughter is 23 months old and she was sleeping well until now. She is waking up in the middle of the night 3 and 4 times with no apparently reason, she sleeps in her crib since she was born in the same room with us (we lived in one bedroom apartment) and sometimes she is screaming and crying at the same time, sometimes she wake up just calling “Mom” but another times sh is fussy, and moving like hitting herself with the sides of the crib and we don’t understand why. When I woke up I tried to put some lullaby and sometimes work another no, if needed I change her diaper and sometimes work and another no, sometimes she ask for “milk” but we gave her “water” instead because her pediatrician said that milk during her sleep can increase chance of cavities and she will get used to drink milk at that time of the night and she will do it again as habit. We tried the same sleep routine and nothing works, dinner, milk, brush her teeth, pajamas, pray, kiss and hug, good night and turn off the light and wait aside until she is full sleep to go out of the room to finish some chores, prepare for next day, have adult dinner time and go to sleep as well. This is happening for about 2 weeks now and we really need help, because she is in a daycare and we wake up early to go to the daycare. We appreciate it any advice, suggestions. Anything that might work we truly appreciate it.

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