Help! The 18 month sleep regression, your comprehensive and helpful guide.

by | Jan 17, 2023 | Improving sleep, Toddler

So, you probably feel like you’ve seen it all now, eh? You may have been hit by the 4 month sleep regression, the 8 month sleep regression and now there’s another?! Toddler sleep regressions, also known as the 18 month sleep regression, commonly occur around the 15-18 month mark – say what?!

My toddlers sleep has changed – is it the 18 month sleep regression?

You may hear people say there’s a 15 month sleep regression, 16 month sleep regression, 17 month sleep regression, 18 month sleep regression or even a 19 month sleep regression.

Toddler sleep regressions may hit some harder than others. For those with a consistent bedtime routine and schedule it may be a case of a few hard nights and for others it’s a period where new strategies brought in to try and manage the sleep regression may end up sticking and staying.

18 month sleep regression, Toddler sleep regressions
Toddler Sleep Regressions

Independent streak

You may notice your toddler is in a new phase of independence. They want the spoon, they want the toy, they’d like to walk instead of be carried. You may feel the days of cuddles are long gone as they would rather be off exploring.

This independence passes onto naps. Why oh why would you want to take a nap when you could be exploring, pulling things from shelves, or throwing your dummies as far as you can fling them from the cot?!

Separation anxiety

However, have you also noticed there’s the flip side? The independent streak can also be accompanied by increased phase of separation anxiety. They’re now a little more aware of the world, not everyone is nice. Caregivers provide a sense of continuity and comfort. It’s much nicer if they’re about!

You may notice your child cries as you leave the room and this hasn’t happened before. Their ability to self soothe and stay calm may have disappeared and you’re now facing a few sleep challenges.

Like every toddler phase, separation anxiety is often a temporary change, but is actually a natural and healthy part of your little one’s development.

18 month sleep regression, Gemma Coe, Sleep Consultant
Toddler Sleep Regression | Separation Anxiety

So many changes

At this age the little ones are dealing with a few changes and there are lots of things that can temporarily disrupt sleep and trigger an 18 month sleep regression.

Often they’ve just dropped from two naps to one nap (this transition can be very difficult for many).

They may be forming friendships, going up a room at daycare and some families may also be expecting a new sibling.

Talking and interactions with others are starting to really take off, although they can easily become frustrated when they can’t communicate as their vocabulary is limited.

To top this off, there are physical changes with your child’s growth too, they may start to be far more mobile, running, dancing, and climbing. Learning new skills at a rapid rate. Teething also becomes tricky again with some molars making an appearance…

It’s hard to sleep after a busy day!

kid, girl, playing

What can I do to help my child through the 18 month sleep regression?

#1 Remain consistent

Many regressions pass with consistency. So it’s worth staying calm. Sure, it may be a hard few nights, but try as much as possible to stick with the routine and bedtime routines your little one has been used to.

Familiarity and routine is often a comfort to children, especially if you’re going through an adjustment period, and will help them get back to being able to fall asleep independently in a few weeks.

#2 Try to stick with the sleep schedule

Day and night sleep schedules ensure our little ones get enough sleep at the right time. Whilst there’s always days where plans go out of the window, well rested children tend to sleep better. If your child has napped well that day, then they’re less likely to be overtired by bedtime.

Overtiredness can destroy a calm bedtime routine, cause night waking and also early waking so for better sleep all round we may want to keep an eye on their sleep times.

It also helps resolved bedtime battles and sleep issues through under-tiredness, as no-one sleeps when they’re just not tired enough!

teddy bear, toy, red

#3 Work on the bedtime routine

Get to a point where the same thing happens every night. Every families routine is different, it’s what works for you and parents work patterns, siblings routines etc.

When it feels right, stick there. Repeat!

Many parents tell me they want a gentle approach. Remember, you can be ‘gentle’ but also firm! Boundaries and routine also provide comfort as they help those transitions between day and night. You can start using visual cues about what comes next in the bedtime routine. Try my flashcards! Make the rules for bedtime clear and will help navigate the 18 month sleep regression.

You can also check out my Bedtime Battles Course! Priced at just £47 ($59), the 2 hour course guides you through everything needed to restore bedtimes.

#4 Explain, explain, explain

Toddlers like to understand the what, where and why. Whilst sometimes it’s entertaining, it can also make transitions difficult. The transition between daytime activities and the bedtime routine is often difficult.

Talk through each element of the bedtime routine before it happens. Then there’s no surprises. It also helps build the familiarity of the routine. As I mentioned above, familiarity brings comfort.

#5 Work on that independence, consider sleep training

If your child falls asleep with your help and support in the room when being settled at night then it may be worth considering sleep training. There are multiple methods out there and one that’s right for your family too.

If they’re settling happily at bedtime independently (and consistently) then they’re more likely to connect sleep cycles and you’re far less likely to see night waking. It’ll really help cut down on those sleep disruptions and sleepless nights.

#6 Ensure healthy sleep habits

Limit screen time in the run up to bedtime as white and blue light can affect melatonin production. This hormone helps our sleep patterns and your child to feel sleepy.

Whilst we’re on sleep environment, it’s also worth making sure the room is dark and free from distractions. Many toddlers would much rather stay awake than fall asleep!

#7 Try not to move to a toddler bed

This is really tricky. If you can keep your child in a cot that’s preferable. Some may start climbing at this age and you can try a sleeping bag to see if it will help stop them getting their legs high enough.

Safety first. If they are putting themselves at risk then you may want to consider a gate at the door and treating the whole room as a cot. We don’t want any trips around the house at night!

Most toddlers don’t develop impulse control until the age of 3 so you may find moving to a big bed causes more toddler sleep problems and nighttime awakenings rather than less.

Need help at bedtime too? Check out my 2 hour Bedtime Battles Course.

You can also check out my Bedtime Battles Course! Priced at just £47, the 2 hour course guides you through everything needed to restore bedtimes.

bedtime battles course

Get in touch!

18 month sleep regression?

If you are experiencing difficulties with an 18 month sleep regression, please get in touch, follow me on instagram, or read my other blogs.

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Hi, I’m Gemma, your sleep consultant

I am a certified baby and child sleep specialist who works with families all over the world.

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