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Sleep Regression in Toddlers: Signs, Causes, Tips, Treatment Techniques, and More

Sleep regression in toddlers is a common phase where sleep patterns are disrupted. Learn the causes and symptoms.

sleep regression in toddlers
From around 18 months of age, some toddlers who usually sleep well suddenly refuse to go to sleep, or they wake up during the night and do not go back to sleep by themselves. Credit: Liga Cerina/Shutterstock

As a parent, you know how important sleep is for your toddler’s health and well-being. 

But what happens when your little one suddenly starts waking up more often at night, refusing to nap, or struggling to fall asleep in the first place? This could be a sign of sleep regression in toddlers, a challenging phase that many parents face. 

In this article, we’ll explore sleep regression, why it happens, and how you can help your child through it.

Signs of Sleep Regression in Toddlers

If you’ve noticed that your toddler is suddenly having trouble sleeping, it could be a sign of sleep regression. Some common signs of sleep regression in toddlers include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up frequently at night
  • Refusing to nap
  • Resisting bedtime
  • Changes in behavior, such as increased irritability or clinginess

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to address them promptly. While sleep regression can be challenging, there are steps you can take to help your child sleep more soundly.

Causes of Sleep Regression in Toddlers

Sleep regression in toddlers can have many different causes, and it’s important to identify the underlying issue in order to address it effectively. Some common causes of sleep regression in toddlers include:

  • Growth spurts: As toddlers go through growth spurts, they may experience temporary disruptions in their sleep patterns.
  • Teething: Teething can be painful and uncomfortable for toddlers, which can make it harder for them to sleep.
  • Illness: If your toddler is sick or recovering from an illness, they may have trouble sleeping.
  • Developmental milestones: As toddlers reach new milestones, such as learning to walk or talk, they may experience changes in their sleep patterns.

If you suspect that any of these issues may be contributing to your child’s sleep regression, it’s important to address them as soon as possible. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have any concerns about their health or development.

5 Tips for Coping with Sleep Regression in Toddlers

Coping with sleep regression in toddlers can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to help your child sleep more soundly. Here are some tips to try:

1. Establish a consistent bedtime routine

A consistent bedtime routine can help your toddler feel more relaxed and ready for sleep. Consider incorporating soothing activities like reading a book or singing a lullaby.

2. Make sure your child is getting enough physical activity

Toddlers need plenty of physical activity during the day in order to sleep well at night. Make sure your child is getting enough exercise and outdoor time.

3. Create a calming sleep environment

A dark, quiet, and cool bedroom can help your toddler sleep more soundly. Consider using blackout curtains, a white noise machine, or a fan to create a calming environment.

4. Consider alternative sleep aids

If your toddler is having trouble sleeping, consider using alternative sleep aids like lavender oil or a weighted blanket.

5. Implement a “bedtime pass” system

If your toddler is struggling with bedtime, consider using a “bedtime pass” system. This involves giving your child a pass that they can use to leave their bedroom once per night. This can help alleviate any anxiety they may be feeling about bedtime.

When to Seek Professional Help?

While sleep regression is common in toddlers, there are times when it may be necessary to seek professional help. Consider consulting with your child’s pediatrician or a sleep consultant if:

  • Your child is consistently waking up at night
  • Your child is experiencing extreme behavior changes
  • You are concerned about your child’s overall health and well-being

A professional can help you identify any underlying issues and develop a plan to help your child sleep more soundly.

5 Soothing Techniques to Help Your Toddler Sleep

When your toddler is going through a sleep regression, it can be a frustrating and exhausting time for both you and your child. But there are a few techniques you can try to help your little one fall asleep and stay asleep:

1. Stick to a consistent bedtime routine

A predictable routine can help your toddler feel secure and calm, making it easier for them to fall asleep.

2. Use white noise

Soft, soothing sounds like rainfall or ocean waves can help drown out other noises and create a calming environment.

3. Try a comfort item

A favorite stuffed animal or blanket can provide comfort and help your toddler feel safe and secure.

4. Offer a bedtime snack

A small, nutritious snack like a banana or a few crackers can help your toddler feel full and satisfied, making it easier for them to drift off to sleep.

5. Offer comfort and reassurance

When your toddler wakes up during the night, offer a reassuring touch or soothing words to help them feel safe and secure.

Conclusion

Sleep regression in toddlers can be a challenging time for both parents and children, but it’s a normal part of development. By understanding what’s causing your child’s sleep disturbance and implementing some soothing techniques, you can help your little one get the rest they need to grow and thrive.

Remember, every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. If you’re struggling with your toddler’s sleep regression, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician for guidance and support.

In the end, remember to take care of yourself too. Parenting is hard work, and it’s okay to ask for help and take a break when you need one. With patience, love, and understanding, you and your little one can get through this challenging time together.

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