Yes, Your Toddler Can Have a Sleep Regression

Yes, Your Toddler Can Have a Sleep Regression

Everything was going so well…and then it wasn’t. Sound familiar? When your toddler stops sleeping soundly, what’s an exhausted parent to do? Read on for expert advice

Getting your child to sleep well can feel like solving a big puzzle. You gather all the pieces that should add up to sleep success—a soothing sleep environment, enough time between naps and bedtime, a regular bedtime routine…. For a while, the pieces fit together beautifully, yielding peaceful naps and nighttimes. And then—a sleep regression hits and you have to start all over again.

As frustrating as they are, sleep regressions are normal. They can occur when a child is approaching or experiencing an important growth milestone (such as starting to walk or giving up a nap), teething, after traveling, and after an illness.

Remember, the pieces that helped set up good sleep for your little one before will work again. So when the regressions hit, lean on your routines, follow the good habits you’ve established, and the sleep bumps should eventually smooth out. 

To help you navigate some of the common sleep interruptions, we asked our sleep pro, Dr. Natalie Barnett, VP of Clinical Research here at Nanit Lab, for her best sleep regression advice.


My 10-month-old was sleeping through the night but then she started to pull to stand in the crib and it threw everything off. Now she needs to be held to fall asleep. How should I move forward?

Dr. Natalie’s advice:

“Go back to basics! Your daughter knows how to sleep, and it's easy to get off track when illness, travel, or milestones throw themselves at us!

Start with letting your child fall asleep by herself at the beginning of the night; that’s number one! Be consistent with that and your bedtime routine and she will be sleeping through again in no time.”

I think we’ve hit a sleep regression with my toddler combined with her getting sick. She now wakes up an hour or two early, doesn’t nap or takes short naps, and wakes up once or twice during the night. Help!

Dr. Natalie’s advice: “Getting sick can be tough! Toddlers are good at slipping into new habits quickly (both good and bad), so this is a great time to reestablish good habits. If your child is still on two naps, move her to one. I'm hoping that the trouble is just about timing, and once you are down to one nap things should sort themselves out. If you’re already on one nap, for now, give her some pain relief before bed and then again in the middle of the night if needed. But give her the chance to get herself back to sleep. 

Also, make sure she is falling asleep by herself at the beginning of the night and that the room is super dark. It can get very bright in the early morning hours, and putting up some black garbage bags on the windows can make all the difference.” 

Let Nanit be part of your support system. Nanit features like the Baby Standing notification and OK to Wake let you know if your child is getting up earlier than they should be and help you teach your toddler healthy sleep habits and boundaries. (See more on OK to Wake below.)

My 22 month old’s sleep habits are changing. He first started fighting naps. We now put him in the car to get him to fall asleep, which he quickly does. He transfers fine and sleeps for two hours. Lately, it’s early wake ups…5:30, 5, 4:45 a.m; he used to sleep until 7:30 a.m. or later. Nothing has changed with our bedtime routine. We try to let him cry a bit, but then he screams for us. And as soon as he sees us, it’s over. Hoping it’s a regression, but it’s exhausting!

Dr. Natalie’s advice: “You might need to cut back on his napping time. Your child doesn't need as much day sleep as he once did and a longer nap could be interfering with his nighttime sleep. Often reducing the nap by one hour will buy you two more hours of sleep at night.”

Nanit’s OK to Wake feature is also helpful for early risers. Program in what time is okay for your child to get up for the day. When the Pro Camera picks up that your little one is sitting or standing, it signals to Sound + Light to turn green if the time is within your “OK to Wake” window. If it’s too early, Sound + Light shows a red light, letting your child know they need to stay in bed.

My almost 3-year-old FIGHTS her naps. I don’t think she’s ready to drop the nap because once she falls asleep she sleeps well, but she resists so much. Then, because her naps get so late, her bedtime has to be pushed back. And even at bedtime, it takes her over an hour to fall asleep. She used to go down in 20 to 30 minutes. Any tips? 

Dr. Natalie’s advice: “It’s a tricky stage when a child gets ready to drop the nap. It’s normal to see resistance like this when kids are not tired enough to go to sleep. I don't want your child in the crib for long stretches trying to get to sleep. Aim for a five- to six-hour wake window after the nap, which might mean that she temporarily goes to bed a bit later than usual. 

It could be that some days are no-nap days and some are nap days. On the no-nap days, I'd still have a “rest time,”

which could be her playing quietly or even watching a TV show if that works for your family. On the no-nap days, her bedtime will be super early (like 6 p.m. probably). You might find that biting the bullet and dropping the nap altogether makes things easier for your family. It might take your child a week or so to get used to, but often when you make the leap to no nap, things smooth themselves out.” 

Parents, it will get easier again! Stick with the steps that you know can succeed and let Nanit be your trusty assistant to be your eyes and ears, predict upcoming milestones, and give you personalized tips and strategies.


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    Natalie Barnett, PhD serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.

    Kristy Ojala is Nanit’s Digital Content Director. She spends way too much time looking at maps and weather forecasts and pictures of Devon Rex cats and no-cook dinners. A former sleep champion, she strives to share trustworthy somnabulism tips with other parents—praying for that one fine day when no tiny humans wake her up while it’s still dark out. Her kids highly recommend 3 books, approximately 600 stuffies, Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” and the Nanit Sound + Light for bedtime success.

    Mackenzie Sangster is on the Brand and Community team at Nanit. She supports content development and editing for Nanit’s Parent Confidently blog as well as other marketing initiatives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends, cooking, being active, and using the Pro + Flex Duo to keep an eye on her fur-baby, Poppy!

    Holly Hays is a contributor and writer for Nanit, channeling her years as a mama and former magazine editor to create fun, useful content for fellow busy, trying-to-do-their-best parents and caregivers. Holly has written for a wide range of brands and media outlets (Ergobaby, HGTV, Manhattan Toy Company, OXO), loves to cook and read mystery novels, and leans heavily on her two daughters to keep her up to date on all the latest slang.