What Is The 2-Year Sleep Regression and Can I Stop It?

Updated Oct 18th 2022 | timer 10  min read

24 Month Sleep Regression
Elissa Gross

Medically Reviewed By medical-check-mark Elissa Gross Board Certified Pediatrician & Lactation Consultant

Mandy Treeby

Written By Mandy Treeby Chief Baby Sleep Consultant

If you have a 2-year-old, you’ve likely already experienced many ups and downs in your little one’s sleep journey: the first “sleeping through the night,” nap transitions, and probably a few sleep regressions, too.

Now, as your baby approaches their second birthday, you’re probably wondering, “is there a 2-year-old sleep regression?” While we’d love to say, no, the days of sleep regressions are over, the fact is that yes, babies do typically experience a sleep regression around 24-months.

This may be frustrating to hear, but there are ways to manage a 2-year sleep regression and ways to make a 2-year sleep regression shorter. Here we’ll show you how to deal with a 2-year sleep regression and explain why the 2-year sleep regression is a good thing.


IN THIS ARTICLE:


Do 2-Year-Old’s Have Sleep Regressions?

Yes, 24-month-olds typically experience a sleep regression.

What is a 2-Year-Old Sleep Regression?

Sleep regressions are when your baby is consistently sleeping for longer periods and then suddenly wakes up in the middle of the night. The they wake up again the next night; and the next… That’s a sleep regression: a brief backslide in your baby’s normal sleep.

How Long Does a 2-Year-Old Sleep Regression Last?

The good news is that the 24-month-old or 2-year-old sleep regression is typically shorter than previous sleep regressions: rather than lasting 2-6 weeks, the 24-month-old regression lasts about 1-3 weeks – this is because 24-month-olds are more experienced with sleeping than younger babies and most of them have already learned how to fall asleep independently.

Even more good news: the actual regression – the nightly wakeup – is also brief, usually about 5-10 minutes before babies typically get themselves back to sleep. 

Why Does a 2-Year-Old Have Sleep Regressions?

Sleep regressions typically coincide with major developmental milestones – and your 2-year-old has those in spades. For that reason, the 2-year-old sleep regression is a good sign – it shows your baby is developing well!

As with previous regressions, some causes of the 24-month-old sleep regression may include:

  • Teething
  • Separation anxiety.
  • New skills, such as walking or learning new words.

If your baby is experiencing the signs of a 2-year-old sleep regression, it may be time to try or revisit sleep training.

What Are 2-Year-Old Developmental Milestones?

In addition to the milestones above, here are some common developmental milestones for 2-year-olds.

Keep in mind your baby is unique and will develop at their own pace, so rest assured it’s totally alright if your baby is still working on some of these developmental milestones. This is not a 24-month development checklist – merely a guide to what may be happening. And as always, feel free to reach out to your pediatrician if you have concerns.

Larger Vocabulary:

Splendiferous!

Your baby has been learning a lot about language over the past two years. Now that they’re talking more, they’re learning and using more words than ever, and it’s incredible to observe. Your baby may even be using their new vocabulary to say a few simple sentences, like “I like that truck.” They may also be able to point out familiar people or objects when you point to them.

Walking Like a Pro:

Most babies begin to take their first real steps around one year. That means your 24-month-old has had plenty of time to practice their steps – and it shows. Around 24-months you’ll notice your baby walking with more confidence and purpose – in fact that walking has now become running!

Better Motor Skills:

From kicking a ball to climbing furniture to transporting toys around the house, 24-month-olds are better coordinated and have stronger motor skills than even a month ago – another exciting development that shows your little baby growing up.

Tantrums:

We’ve saved this doozy for last….

Your 24-month-old is learning two things right now: independence and language. Plus, they’re feeling a lot of emotions that may not be able to put into words. All of these factors can lead to dreaded tantrums. [They don’t call it the terrible twos for nothing!]

A tantrum can come out of nowhere – for example, just by asking a happy baby to put away their toys before dinner – which can make them frustrating. Luckily, there are a few ways to handle tantrums with grace.

How to Handle Toddler Temper Tantrums:

  • Step Away: Sometimes tantrums are all about getting attention from you, the “audience.” If you’re at home and your baby is in a safe room, step away from them to see if the tantrum subsides. If they follow you, it may be time for a time out in their room. This distracts your baby and gives them a quiet, soothing space to cool down.
  • Remove Your Baby: If you’re in public and your baby is having a tantrum, try to step away to a quiet spot to distract your baby and give them a second to calm.
  • Hold Them Close: If your baby is throwing a tantrum and flailing their arms dangerously, or simply won’t calm down, try holding them close, facing your chest. That way they feel safe and loved and, bonus, can’t see too much – a visual break that can help deescalate a tantum.

Remember: Don’t take tantrums personally. It’s just your baby processing the way they know how. Also, avoid feeling embarrassed if your baby has a tantrum in public – everyone who has ever had a toddler will empathize, and if they don’t, that’s their problem.

How to Support Your 2-Year-Old’s Development

While your 24-month-old is developing naturally, there are some simple ways to help them grow or improve these new skills:

Talk, Talk, Talk:

Your baby is learning new words and talking more. You can help them out by talking to them and having small conversations. Also, if they are speaking in small sentences, help them grow their skills by adding to that sentence. For example, if they say, “That’s a truck,” you can respond, “Yes, that is a red truck.”

New Routines:

We know from sleep training that routines and consistency help babies feel secure. Since your baby is now growing, it may be time to create some new family routines – for example, every Wednesday you go for a walk together, or Tuesday is Taco night. These little rituals create a sense of security and become core memories for them – and you.

Story Time:

Reading is a great activity to include in your baby’s bedtime routine from the very start because it’s calming and helps their language learning but reading to a 24-month-old has another benefit: it teaches them about story structure and nurtures their imagination.

Potty Training:

It may be a wee too early for some – no pun intended – but many 24-month-olds may be ready to start using the toilet – a big developmental step that will also make your life easier! Don’t you love when that happens?

Signs It’s Time to Potty Train:

  • Your baby is interested in the toilet.
  • Your baby lets you know they have to go to the bathroom
  • Your baby can pull their pants down and pull them back up.

If your baby is showing these signs but isn’t ready, get the ball rolling by choosing a potty for them to eventually use and keeping that potty in a place where they can see it. Often a baby will use it on their own – a lovely surprise!

A 2-Year-Old’s Sleep Schedule

Now that we’ve discussed your 2-year-old’s sleep regression and your 2-year-old’s developmental milestones, here is a brief guide to a typical 24-month-old’s sleep.

Below we’ll answer common questions, including, “How much should a 2-year-old sleep during the day?” or “Can my 24-month-old sleep through the night?”

Note: we use the times below simply as an example. Your baby is unique and has their own special sleep patterns, so focus less on the clock time and more on their wake windows and sleepy cues when determining their bed or naptimes.

As a reminder

  • Wake windows are how long your baby is awake between sleeps.
  • Sleepy cues are things your baby does when tired, like yawning or rubbing their eyes.

By using wake windows and sleepy cues, you work with your baby’s natural sleep rhythm to get them the nourishing sleep they need to keep growing big and strong!

Sample Sleep Schedule for 2-Year-Olds With 1 Nap:

“Good morning!”

6:30 AM

Nap 1

12:00-2:00 PM

Awake: 5 hrs 30 mins

Nap: 2 hrs

Bedtime Routine

7:00 PM

“Good night!”

7.30 PM

Awake: 5 hrs 30 mins

Can My 2-Year-Old Sleep Though the Night?

Most 24-month-old babies can sleep through the night, yes. This is particularly true for babies who have been sleep trained because sleep training helps strengthen their ability to self-soothe – just one of the benefits of sleep coaching.

How Many Total Hours Should a 2-Year-Old Sleep Each Day?

About 12-14 hours over a 24-hour period is a good sleep goal for 24-month-olds.

How Much Should My 2-Year-Old Sleep at Night?

Typically, 24-month-olds sleep about 11 hours at night.

How Much Should My 2-Year-Old Sleep During Naps?

90 minutes is a good goal for a 24-month-old’s naptime, though up to 2.5 hours is also acceptable. Avoid naps longer than 2.5 hours, though, as this can lead to missed wake windows and overtiredness. 

What is The Wake Window for a 2-Year-Old?

The wake window for a 24-month-old is about 5.5-6 hours between sleeps.

How To Cope with 2-Year-Old Sleep Regressions:

Sleep regressions are frustrating, yes, but there are ways to manage them and shorten sleep regressions:

Routine, Routine, Routine:

Sometimes as our baby ages we slip a bit with our bedtime routines – we think they have sleep under control, but no matter how old your baby or how much sleep progress they’ve made the sleep routine remains the cornerstone of their sleep training. That said, maintaining your typical bedtime routines can mitigate sleep regressions by calming your baby and cueing them it’s time to sleep.

Wait a Moment:

Babies have a natural ability to self-soothe – an ability sleep coaching strengthens. To help your baby sleep better, avoid checking on every sound or noise they make, especially if they’re in the midst of a sleep regression. Instead, wait a moment to see if your baby gets themselves back to sleep.

Low Lights and Low Voice:

If you do check on your baby, remember to speak softly and keep the lights off or low. Otherwise, you risk waking them up even more.

Keep a Distance:

It may be hard at times like this but try to avoid picking up your baby to reassure them. This will wake them further and deprives them of the opportunity to self-soothe. Instead, offer brief reassurances from the doorway to their room or gently pat their back.

Limit Screen Time:

Pediatricians agree that babies should have far less screen time than us adults. In fact, some research suggests babies should be screen free for their first two years.

That said, we know screens can be a lifesaver when you need to distract or occupy your baby. If you do use screens, though, it’s best to stop at last 30 minutes before bed because the light from screens stimulates “wake-up” hormones, making bedtime a bear.

Take ‘Me Time’:

Parenting is hard, especially when your baby is experiencing a sleep regression, and it’s completely acceptable to step away for a moment to take “me time.” Simply place your baby someplace safe, go to someplace calm, and take some deep breaths. This isn’t selfish or neglectful – it’s essential. Remember, you’re a caring, loving parent to your baby – we know this because you’re, doing this research – but you also need to be caring and loving to yourself.

FAQs:

What should I expect from my 24-month-old?

24-month-olds are learning a lot every day, so around now you’ll see them starting to play alone, express new emotions, walk independently, say new words, and so much more. This is an exciting time!

What should 2-year-olds know academically?

There’s no “academically” for 24-month-olds, but they are learning a lot of new information: colors, shapes, and their vocabularies are improving now, too.

How many words is a 24-month-old supposed to say?

24-month-olds typically know about 50 words, usually words they use or hear often, like dog, juice, toy, grandma, or truck. The more you speak to them, the more they’ll learn!

How high should a 2-year-old count?

Babies have limited understanding of what numbers actually mean, but by 24-months most babies can count to two.

Sources:

“Important Milestones: Your Child By Two Years”, The CDC
“Nighttime sleep-wake patterns and self-soothing from birth to one year of age: a longitudinal intervention study,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
“Infant Sleep Regression: What Parents Need To Know,” The Cleveland Clinic
“Exploring Toddler Sleep Disparities Using Spatial Analytic Methods,” Yale University.

How We Wrote This Article:

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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