How to handle the 18-month-old sleep regression


By Jolandi Becker – MD of Good Night

The 18-months sleep regression can be one of the most challenging because discipline starts playing a major role. Discipline alone can make it very challenging and, as we all know, an 18-month-old toddler is not quite a baby anymore BUT they are definitely NOT big kids either.  Even though they want to do things on their own all the time, they are not always ready or able to do so. It can be frustrating for a young toddler and may lead to many meltdowns! 

What is a sleep regression?
A sleep regression is a period where your toddler sleeps worse than normal. The worst sleep might entail struggling to fall asleep or waking up more than usual at night. It might also mean being awake for extended periods of time at bedtime or throughout the night. How long it lasts depends on the age of your child.

Why do sleep regressions happen?
Sleep regressions are caused by development. Mental, physical and emotional development depends on a toddler’s age. Thus, when your toddler is growing (which is most of the time) this consequent development can disrupt their sleep for various reasons.

With your 18-month-old toddler, quite a few things might trigger a sleep regression. However, teething, emotional development (separation anxiety) and a growing sense of independence are the main culprits. 

How long does the 18 month sleep regression last?
This can last between 1 and 3 weeks. Unfortunately, it may also come and go over several weeks.

When does it happen?

Like any developmental milestone, the regression does not happen exactly on the day your toddler turns 2, but could happen anywhere between 18 and 30 months.

How long does it last?
This can last anywhere between 3–6 weeks.
How to survive the 18-month-old toddler’s sleep regression

  1. The most important thing during this regression is to remain consistent. During this time of stormy emotions and changes in development, it is important to stick to what your toddler knows as this will give them a sense of security. Keep in mind that this is only a phase and now is not the time to start new habits such as lying down with your toddler, or feeding them at night again. You know they can do it! Give them a chance to go through the phase.
  2. Do not be tempted to move them out of the cot too early. The main reason for this is safety. It is not safe for your 18-month-old toddler to roam around in their room or, even worse, your house while you are sleeping. There are way too many dangers! The best time to move them to a normal bed is between 2,5 and 3 years old.
  3. Giving in to their every whim or emotion could give them the leverage they need to do exactly that: what they want. They are only toddlers and unfortunately do not yet know what is good for them or not. So, discipline comes into play. This is definitely where the biggest challenge lies, but don’t underestimate how much they understand. Make sure to be clear and concise about what is expected and remember that they cannot follow rules if they do not know them. 
  4. Give them options and help build their independence. ‘We are only going to read two stories, but you can pick which ones.’ ‘You have to wash but you can decide on a bath or a shower.’
  5. Your toddler still requires 11 to 12 hours’ sleep at night. So, do not be tempted to move your bedtime onward. Fatigue is the main reason for early morning wake-ups!
  6. Phone your nearest consultant. Our responsible consultants help you to develop a custom-made plan for your family by incorporating all the necessary building blocks. We also support you for 2 weeks to help implement the plan.

Even though sleep regressions can cause sleep disruptions, the important thing to remember is that if you remain consistent, it should only be a phase. If your little one slept well before the regression, they should go back to a normal sleep routine after the phase is over, and the regression should not be a reason to start negative associations with sleeping.