Traditionally, as a child moves past infancy into their toddler years, their sleeping habits become more regimented and predictable. However, some children experience a sleep regression phase during their toddler years. Not only is this change hard for the parents to endure, but for a young child who needs sleep to develop properly, sleep disturbances are also troubling for the child. 

Stick With the Regimen

Once you are able to recognize the changes in your child's sleeping patterns, it's a good idea for you to start referencing how they slept before and doing your best to stick with this plan. Consider a child who had a bedtime of 7:00 in the evening, for instance. If the child typically cries and refuses to fall asleep until 9:00, do not change their bedtime to 9:00. It's important that you maintain a schedule for your child to follow. 

Eliminate Distractions

Sleep regression can occur for quite a few reasons, but a common trigger is overstimulation. Children need calm environments to sleep well, and anything else will make them restless. If you typically kept the television on while your child slept or left a light on in the room, it's a good idea to turn these devices off. The fewer distractions the better. Consider hiring a sleep consultant who can help you discover some devices that might actually help your child sleep better rather than serving as a distraction, such as a sound machine.

Don't Rush to Co-sleeping

When a toddler can't sleep, one of the first things a parent will do is bring the child into the bed with them, but this step isn't always the right one. During a regression, you have to somewhat retrain your child to sleep. During this retraining phase, if the child is sleeping with you, you are inadvertently teaching the child that sleep involves being right next to you. Unless you want to keep your child in the bed with you forever, don't start this habit.

Be Flexible

It's critical that you be flexible during this phase and remember that sleep regression is as much a learning experience for you as it is for your child. While you want to try and keep your child on their schedule, you also have to adapt. For instance, if your child typically took a nap around 4:00, but has started falling asleep just after lunch, you should not wake your child. A sleep consultant can help you adapt to and navigate these changes while you work to return your child to their previous schedule.

Sleep regression in toddlers is common, but more importantly, it's a challenge you can work through. Contact a pediatric sleep consultant for additional assistance.