What Do You Do When Your 2-Year-Old Won't Nap?

Reviewed on 6/23/2021
2-year-old sleep regression
Toddler won’t nap? Find out what causes 2-year-old sleep regression and what you can do about it

Just when you think you’ve got sleep training figured out, your little one may throw a massive curveball your way. 

When babies seem to take a step backward in their sleep routines, it is frequently referred to as sleep regression. Although sleep regression can occur at different ages throughout childhood, it is common among 2-year-olds. You may notice your 2-year-old suddenly struggle to fall asleep or start to wake up frequently throughout the night. They may also refuse to take a nap.

Most, if not all, 2-year-olds go through one or more types of sleep regression. It is completely normal and part of your toddler’s natural development. Moreover, it’s temporary, and there are a few ways you can deal with it.

What causes 2-year-old sleep regression?

The most common cause of sleep regression at this age is fear and anxiety. It’s very common for a child to say they are afraid to sleep alone. Being close to their parents is very important to 2-year-olds. Other causes include:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Disruptive life changes
  • Nighttime fears
  • Transitioning to a big bed
  • Newfound individuality
  • Teething and sickness

Since it’s easy for your toddler to develop bad sleep habits during this regression, be mindful of the tactics you’re using and keep them consistent.

How to deal with 2-year-old sleep regression

The key to dealing with your child’s sleep regression is to remain consistent in your efforts and ride out temporary setbacks.

Keep a consistent nap schedule

The ideal time for a nap for your 2-year-old is around noon or 1pm. While it may be tempting to push naptime to later if your toddler refuses to lie down, keep in mind that pushing naptime too much may result in a permanent nap strike.

Practice good sleep hygiene

Good sleep hygiene means creating a good environment for sleep. Make sure your child’s room is:

  • Cool and comfortable in temperature
  • Dark or with only a dim nightlight
  • Quiet or only with a low-volume white noise machine
  • Completely screen-free

Address nightmares

If your child is having nightmares, make sure to validate their fears. Don’t tell them it was nothing. Ask them what happened and reassure them that it was just a dream, offering lots of comfort along the way. Moreover, make sure to understand what is causing the nightmares and make needed changes if possible.

Around 40% of kids will experience night terrors at some point, so it is rarely a cause for concern. As with nightmares, make sure there is nothing stressing your child and disrupting their sleep each night. If night terrors are leaving your child exhausted or becoming so violent that you worry your child may injure themselves or others, make sure to talk to your pediatrician.

Make sure they’re comfortable

If your little one is teething or sick, proactively giving them a pain reliever before bedtime may be a good idea. 

Dress your little one in soft, lightweight pajamas that will allow their skin to breathe. This is always important, but even more so when they are sick.

Establish boundaries

Although it may not feel like it, your child craves boundaries. Make them feel like they’re involved in the decision-making process. Allow your little one to choose their pajamas or a particular book they’d like to hear before bed. If they refuse to nap, you can help them to understand that it’s their choice, but they will need to rest their body in order to have energy for the rest of the day.

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Why it’s important to be patient

If necessary, make schedule adjustments, but keep in mind that a little extra patience is the most important thing for getting through this temporary rough patch. 

Armed with patience, perseverance, and expert advice, you'll be ready to tackle your 2-year-old’s bedtime challenges. 

Reiterate your expectations with positive reinforcement, and soon, your child will fall into a healthy routine with plenty of sleep to balance out their playtime and learning time.

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References
Sleep in Toddlers & Preschoolers: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14302-sleep-in-toddlers--preschoolers

Solutions to sleep concerns (12) – toddlers 1 to 3 years: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/solutions-sleep-concerns-toddlers-1-3-years

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