Sleep is crucial for your toddler’s growth and development. When they hit around 18 months, you might notice some sleep-related challenges. The term that describes this phenomenon is the 18-month sleep regression. While this phase may be daunting, it’s also a sign of your child’s progress. We must adapt our approach toward our toddler’s sleep habits to better navigate this period.
The Existence of an 18 Month Sleep Regression
Between 14 and 18 months, you may notice frequent sleep disturbances in your toddler. Parents often report increased resistance to bedtime, regular night awakenings, and refusal to nap during the day. This period often called the “18-month sleep regression,” affects some toddlers more than others. The extent to which this phase impacts a child’s sleep largely depends on their routines and how parents handle these changes. Let’s delve into the developmental factors influencing sleep patterns at this age.
Identifying the Signs of Sleep Regression
When we discuss sleep regression, we’re referring to a situation where a toddler’s sleep quality suddenly declines. Parents might notice various changes in their child’s sleep habits. These include a reluctance to sleep at bedtime, increased night awakenings, waking up early, refusal to nap, and shorter naps.
Uniqueness of the 18-Month Sleep Regression and Its Causes
At this age, toddlers begin to test boundaries and seek independence. Instead of effortlessly falling asleep at bedtime, they might start exploring, such as continuing playtime, throwing pacifiers on the floor, or even attempting to climb out of the crib.
Increased separation anxiety is another factor that can contribute to sleep regression at this age. Separation anxiety is a normal part of child development, but some phases might be more extreme. As a result, your child might become clingier and even refuse to sleep peacefully.
Teething could also contribute to the 18-month sleep regression. The first molars often start to break through the gums around this age. As a result, teething children often seek more comfort from their parents, especially during sleep times.
Most children transition from two naps to one nap during the day at this age. This change can lead to overtiredness, causing difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep.
Duration of the 18 Month Sleep Regression
An 18 month sleep regression typically lasts between 2 – 6 weeks. However, not every child experiences this phase simultaneously. Parents’ responses to new sleep challenges can sometimes create long-term sleep problems.
Strategies to Minimize the Impact of Sleep Regression
The rapid developmental changes at 18 months often result in a cranky toddler. However, there are ways to alleviate the impact and improve sleep.
Implementing an Age-Appropriate Bedtime
With younger toddlers still taking two daytime naps, their bedtime can start to get later. However, bedtime must be earlier when a child drops to one nap. Many children in this age group can comfortably stay awake for about 5 hours at a time. That means if their nap ends at 1:00 PM, they may be ready for bedtime as early as 6:00 PM.
Use SweetSpot® to predict your child’s best nap and bedtime after their nap transition. This can help limit overtiredness and the resulting sleep issues, especially during this adjustment period.
By 15 months, many children are dropping a nap. This transition period may mean frequently missed naps. When naps are skipped, children can become overtired quickly, resulting in difficulty falling and staying asleep.
Consistency is Key
Once a child starts to explore and test boundaries, it’s the perfect time to start setting limits. Having a consistent pre-sleep routine that ends in the same definitive way each time can help fix these limits. Consistently enforcing your bedtime routine will help children understand what to expect during sleep.
Offering Extra Comfort as Needed
There are times when children need extra comfort, especially when they’re experiencing pain from teething or going through an intense bout of separation anxiety. Consult your pediatrician about teething pain medication, if necessary.
Considering Sleep Training
Studies show that children have fewer sleep problems when they learn to fall asleep without parental help at bedtime. If your child needs your assistance to fall asleep, consider sleep training.
FAQ on 18 Month Sleep Regression
Q: Why does my 18 month old keep waking up at night?
A: Overtiredness and sleep onset associations are the most common causes. Children who skip naps or go to bed too late may be overtired, resulting in more wakings.
Q: Can the 18 month sleep regression happen early?
A: The 18 month sleep regression can occur anytime between 14 and 18 months.
Q: Do all babies go through the 18 month sleep regression?
A: No. Although it’s widely discussed, this period of rapid development doesn’t occur at the same age for all children, and it may not permanently disrupt a child’s sleep routines. The child’s sleep habits and the parent’s response play a significant role in whether sleep will regress.