Most parents are familiar with the common infant, baby, and toddler milestones, such as crawling, taking their first steps, or saying their first words. But there are many other important changes that occur during this stage of development as well. For instance, toddler's sleep patterns often undergo a major shift around the 18-month mark. This is your guide to dealing with it, and some helpful tips from the experts.
18-Month Sleep Regression in Toddlers
Many toddlers begin to resist going to bed at night and may experience more nightmares or night terrors due to these big changes at 18 months of age. While this can be a challenging time for parents, it is important to remember that these changes are normal and typically resolve themselves within a few months of working on healthy sleep habits with your child. With a little patience and understanding, parents can help their toddlers through this transitional period and enjoy watching them reach new milestones in their development.
Like all babies, toddlers go through a period of rapid development. Around the 18-month mark, many parents witness their toddler's sleep patterns drastically change. This is known as 18-month sleep regression. At this time, bedtime drama is not uncommon, as toddlers deal with this issue and even attempt to assert some independence.
The good news is that parents don't need to worry too much about toddler sleep regressions, as this is a normal part of toddler development. Night wakings in the middle of the night are going to occur from time to time during this particular growth spurt, and it's absolutely nothing to be concerned about.
Of course, it is also important to remember that every child develops at their own pace, so there is no need to compare your toddler to others who may be developing differently. With some patience and understanding, your toddler will soon be back to sleeping on their own through the night.
Steps for Helping Your Toddler with 18-Month Sleep Regression
If you're dealing with an 18 month sleep regression with your toddler, there are a few things you can do to help ease the process. While there is a kind of "sleep training method" to the ostensible madness, the most important steps are actually very simple.
1. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule.
First, try to stick to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible and attempt to keep a consistent bedtime routine. This means going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning to curtail sleep issues as much as you can. Your child is undergoing major physical development during this period, so the more you can do to help ease the transition, the better.
2. Limit Nap Time.
You may also want to limit naps to no more than two hours during the day. AKA, short naps or fewer naps (from 2/day to 1/day) may be better during this time of your toddler's life. Nap time is important for young children, but too much will not help their 18-month sleep regression troubles.
As a parent, you want your child to get the proper number of hours of sleep each day and each night. But you also need to ensure that they're not overdoing it with naps, so that bedtime battles and sleep disturbances at night lessen over time. Nap transitions can be difficult, but it will be more than worth the effort. (Nap refusal is another thing altogether, but fewer hours of daytime sleep may help during the night.)
3. Create a Comfy-Cozy Sleep Environment.
Another helpful tip: you can create a sleep-friendly environment in your child's bedroom. While you have probably done some of this already, there may be more you can do to ensure the perfect sleeping environment.
This means making sure the room is dark, quiet, and comfortable to keep sleep disruptions to a minimum. You may also want to consider using a white noise machine or fan to help drown out any outside noises that might disrupt sleep.
4. Establish a Relaxing Sleep Routine.
Finally, try some gentle sleep training methods to help your child learn how to sleep through the night. This may include establishing a bedtime routine that includes calming activities like reading or taking a bath before bed. Again, with some patience and consistency, you can help your toddler get the sleep they need to thrive.
Why Do Toddlers Experience Sleep Regression at 18 Months?
Sleep regression is common in toddlers for a few reasons. First, 18 months is when many toddlers start to become more aware of their surroundings and experience a number of developmental milestones amid a kind of newfound independence. This can make it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.
Second, 18 months is also around the time when many toddlers are starting to walk and talk. This can be an exciting but exhausting time for them, leading to difficulty settling down at night, making for sleepless nights for both them and you.
Finally, some experts believe that sleep regression may be due in part to changes in a toddler's sleep cycles. At this age, toddlers typically move from two naps per day to just one (as discussed above). This shift can sometimes disrupt sleep patterns and lead to sleep problems.
Another issue that can cause sleep regression in toddlers is separation anxiety. There is no need to worry: this is a temporary change that will be resolved in due time. It's just a fact of life that many 18-month olds begin to experience this type of anxiety when they become aware of their separation from their mom and dad in their toddler bed.
Naturally, separation anxiety is common in toddlers during the sleep regression stages, and it can be a major contributor to sleep problems. When your toddler is experiencing separation anxiety, they may feel anxious or scared when they are away from you. This can make it hard for them to fall asleep in their own bed, or stay asleep through the night if they wake up and realize you're not there.
As the parent of a toddler, there are a few things you can do to help ease separation anxiety in the midst of sleep regression in your toddler. Again, try as much as possible to keep to a regular sleep schedule every night. You may also want to limit naps to no more than two hours during the day to make falling asleep at night easier to do for your toddler.
At the end of the day, if all else fails, you may want to consider speaking to a child sleep consultant about your child's sleep, as well as how to build new habits to encourage the best transitions during your toddler's development.
And don't forget to get the proper mattress, bedding, pillows, and more for the best of night sleep ever — for you and your toddler — for every good night.