Sleep Regressions are a hard, but unavoidable part of parenting. The way I personally survive these sleep regressions is to look at them as "skill progressions" because that's exactly what they are! The 2 year regression can be a real doozy for some children, but others completely avoid this regression.
Let's take a minute to discuss why this regression happens:
Separation Anxiety: Separation anxiety is at an absolute high at this age. This is completely normal but can be so hard to handle since your two year old is likely now able to LOUDLY protest for quite a long time.
Fears: Your child's imagination peaks around the age of 2. If you've ever had a conversation with a 2 year old, you know their imagination can come up with some pretty 'out there' stuff. This is the time that nightmares/night terrors and fear of the dark can come into play as well.
Fear Of Missing Out: Your child has likely now realized that Mom/Dad/Siblings aren't going to bed at the same time as them, and they do not want to miss out on the fun.
Boundary Pushing: Your little two year old is starting to develop their own personality, and are seeking independence in a lot of areas in their daily life. This creates a big power struggle between child & parents. Add in the newly discovered "NO" and things can get tough.
Molars: Around 2, your child will be getting 2 year molars. These are the last set of teeth for a while but can cause issues surrounding sleep.
Change In Sleep Needs: After 2 years of age, your child's sleep needs drop significantly. Approximately 1-2 hours of day sleep, and 10-11 over night is among the 'normal' range. It's important to stop naps by 2:30/3:00pm to protect your child's bedtime.
Bed Transition: Once children reach 2 years of age, parents tend to rush into the thought that a big bed is needed. If your child is not presenting signs of needing a big bed, do not make this transition based on age. Most children are unable to understand the invisible boundaries that come with a big bed, and the rules until much closer to 3 years old.
Potty Training: If your child is working on developing the skill of bladder control and potty training, this can cause a fairly large impact on your child's sleep.
It's great knowing why these sleep problems are occurring, but how they present themselves can be useful too.
Refusal Of Naps: This is usually one of the biggest indications of the 2 year regression. This is a big reason why some parents assume their children are done with naps, but that isn't the case!
Difficulty Falling Asleep At Night: This goes hand in hand with the refusal of naps. Refusing naps can cause your child to become overtired which results in difficulty falling asleep at bedtime. When our bodies are overtired, it surpasses melatonin (the hormone that helps us sleep) and starts to produce adrenaline (which is why your child will appear hyper)
Waking Frequently At Night: Another part of being overtired, your child may begin waking up frequently at night due to this.
Early Morning Wake Ups: Same as above!
How do you survive this regression? Unfortunately this regression can be one of the longest regressions. These tips will help you keep your sanity, and make it through to the other side!
Keep offering that nap! Even if your child does not sleep, you are presenting them with the opportunity to rest from stimulation.
Stay consistent! Children crave routines and structure. These things make them feel connected and let them know what to expect every day. Offer extra love/snuggles during bedtime routines to help ease fears.
If there is a fear of the dark - introduce a red bulbed night light. Red is the less stimulating colour for lights, and will have the least amount of negative impact on your child's sleep.
Move bedtime forward for nap strikes. If you have given the opportunity for your child to have a nap but it does not happen, it is important to bring their bedtime earlier to help avoid becoming overtired.
Communication: Your child's new found fears are very real to them. Its important to let them know they are heard, and to communicate back to them that there is nothing to be scared of. Lots of reassurance and patience are key during this.
If your child is experiencing separation anxiety, you can introduce a security item that makes them feel safe. Some parents choose to allow their child to sleep with a shirt of Mom/Dad and instruct their child to hug it tight whenever they feel lonely.
Allow your child to make choices. This can be helpful for children who are seeking control in their lives. Offer your child the opportunity to make a choice involving bedtime. This can be something as small as choosing pyjamas and a blanket to sleep with.
If all else fails - fall back on sleep training techniques. This regression can seem to last a bit longer than others, and a lot of the time parents need to fall back on sleep training to get back to better sleep. This is OK!
Sleep regressions can be tough! It's important to remember that if you are not creating unwanted habits, the regression WILL end, and your once sweet sleeper will be back to sleeping soon. If you are experiencing trouble and would like to get a second opinion about your child's schedule and sleep habits, please reach out! I would love to help. www.sleepe-zzzconsulting.com