First of all, if you are reading this because your child is in fact currently not sleeping, I would like you to take a deep breath and take a couple of minutes to yourself if you can. I am saying this because of course, having a toddler who is struggling with sleep regression is tough and I have no doubt you deserve a moment to sit and breathe.
Part one of this blog will explore some of the common reasons that may lead to sleep troubles in toddlers.
It is very common for a toddler to experience trouble with sleeping at around two years old even after having previously settled into a proper sleep routine; this may be referred to as sleep regression. Sleep regression may involve instances of fighting bedtime, waking up throughout the night or even waking up very early. Studies show that sleep problems are common at certain ages, including around the age of 2, and that while it may be very frustrating, it will most likely be temporary! Some studies even show that with patience and consistency, sleep regression may resolve itself within 1-3 weeks.
The reasons why toddlers experience sleep regression are quite varied as each child is unique, but there are some factors that one should keep in mind.
Some reasons that may apply to your child are
- Developmental milestones – 2 year-olds experience a lot of advances and developments. This may result in a lot of energy and trouble sleeping at night, at least until their minds settle into the new developmental stage.
- Separation anxiety – each child is different, and some might go through phases where they want a parent to be close by to feel safe and secure before falling asleep.
- Being overtired – children may find it difficult to fall asleep when overtired as they may struggle to calm themselves down and regulate their emotions
- Other reasons may include changes in routines or in the family system, teething or the development of new fears such as a fear of the dark. Also keep in mind that while infants need about 16 hours of sleep, toddlers need 12-13 hours, so they are now adapting to a new way of experiencing their days.
In part 2 of this blog we will explore practical ways to help a toddler who is experiencing sleep troubles or sleep regression.
Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector and currently works as a Triage Officer and Volunteer Manager with Willingness Team, while pursuing a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy.