Overcoming Toddler Sleep Regressions

Toddler Sleep

Overcoming toddler sleep regressions surprisingly has little to do with sleep. In order to correct a regression, we first have to understand this stage of our toddler’s development. Once we know how our toddler sees the world, it’s easier to respond in a way that will set them up for success at bedtime.

Before a couple of nights of off sleep turn into a new habit, let’s explore more about the toddler brain and share our top tips for setting the stage for sleep success long before we say “goodnight.”

Toddler Development

As our toddlers grow, so does their developing sense of autonomy and desire for control. Since so much of a toddlers life is outside of their control, they are constantly looking for opportunities to have a say.

This desire for some control will present as boundary pushing. At bedtime, this might look like requests for 2 more books, or asking mommy lay in bed for a bit. If your boundaries shift, it can become a slippery slope for new sleep habits to emerge.

Knowing that toddlers are boundary-pushers, it’s important to know that toddlers will learn through consistency and repetition. While you might feel like you’re a broken record, by acknowledging the request and setting a boundary, your toddler will feel safe and secure.

Supporting Your Toddler

So how can we navigate our days and nights with a toddler who is looking for control and testing limits? Let’s look at two ways we can support their growing sense of autonomy and help when it comes to bedtime expectations:

  1. Choice – Offering choice as much as possible will give your child some of that control they are so desperately seeking. Offer two things that are generally inconsequential to you but still move you towards your desired outcome.
  2. Connection – There is probably nothing our kids want more than our attention. They don’t care if that’s positive attention or negative attention.  In order to build cooperation with our children, we must have daily moments of connection. Connection can look however you want it to – a walk, reading, singing, playing with toys, etc. The goal is some time with your kiddo receiving your undivided attention.

Now on to Toddler Sleep

Now that we know some ways to support our toddlers development throughout the day, let’s address how we can support healthy sleep, so we can navigate regressions more smoothly.


The first thing we want to consider is a potential shift in sleep schedule. With most sleep regressions, an adjustment is schedule is an appropriate response. For example, a 2.5-year-old may need to increase from 5.5 hours of awake time before bed to 6 hours to get sleep back on track. If you think your toddler may be ready to drop their nap entirely, check out our blog for the signs of readiness.

Crib vs. Bed

If your toddler is sleeping safely in their crib, you may decide to let them continue sleeping there a bit longer. However, if your toddler has started climbing out of their crib, consider what is safest for your family long-term. Should you move your child to a bed, consistency and boundaries around bedtime will ensure this transition is successful.

Create Lots of Good Feelings

Above we talked about choice and connection, so how can we build that into bedtime? When we consider choices around bedtime it can be, ‘green pj’s or yellow pj’s’, ‘Goodnight Moon or Jammie Time.’ Hopefully you’ve had the chance for some quality time with your little one (so they don’t come looking for it at 2am), but bedtime routines offer another chance for you to build consistency, repetition, and the connection we know they seek.


The world is a new and big place for toddlers; sometimes it’s hard to figure it all out. Role playing or reading books about sleep can help your child immensely. We also know that daytime practice (when fatigue isn’t at play) can be beneficial.


At Sleep Wise, you’ve been hearing us talk about a bedtime routine since infancy. This is the most important cue that bedtime is coming. Your routine should be the same every single night. Give choice where possible, but don’t be afraid to say no to requests that move you away from your goal of a timely bedtime.

What we focus on tends to grow, so celebrating all the positive behaviors your toddler is showing you will likely ensure they continue! Supporting their development with empathy, structure, and love will help you overcome toddler sleep regressions and make bedtime a peaceful end to everyone’s day. If you have questions about your toddlers sleep needs, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Download Our Safe Sleep Guide