18 Month Sleep Regression: 10 expert tips for surviving

18 Month Sleep Regression

You’re sleeping quietly… and you hear your son. He is not only whispering but screaming crazily. Literally. When you get out of bed, you’re wondering what’s going on? What could cause your child’s sleep problems? An ear infection? Could they be two-year-old molars? This is your child walking (or run!) causing this? Or is it the 18-month regression sleep?

Is Your Baby Going Through A Sleep Regression Or Having A Few Off Nights? Take Quiz

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Does that look familiar? Maybe you didn’t notice the signs this time, or you put yourself through this last stretch of growth. But this is something completely different. If you remember, sleep regression is a period in which your baby, who slept all night, suddenly stops. This is a temporary change, usually lasting between two and six weeks. Most often, your baby will return to sleep at night once the cause of sleep regression has stabilized.


At 18 months, a child should sleep about 13-14 hours in total. This is divided into eleven hours of uninterrupted sleep at night and two to two and a half hours of naps. Most 18-month-old children will take a nap in the afternoon.

Causes of 18-month sleep regression

Causes of 18-month sleep regression

Several factors can contribute to the 18-month sleep regression, including:

Separation anxiety: Separation anxiety tends to peak around this age, making it more difficult for a child to fall asleep without a parent or caregiver.

Changes in the circadian rhythm of the baby: Some sleep specialists believe that the natural cycle of the baby’s sleep changes in childhood, so the baby can lie down later and perhaps wake up later. Some children’s nap times also change.

Emerging Independence: Thanks to new skills, such as walking and conversation, and a better understanding of the surrounding world, many young children do not want to sleep. They can deliberately fight sleep by hitting or delaying bedtime.

Physiological health problems: Sometimes, what appears to be sleep regression is something else, such as sleep apnea or acid reflux. If the child suffers or How to handle the 2-year-old sleep regressionsleep regression lasts more than a few weeks, parents or caregivers should take the child to a doctor.

Signs and Symptoms

signs of 18-month sleep regression

Some symptoms and signs of 18-month sleep regression include:

  • taking more time to fall asleep
  • waking up more frequently at night
  • crying at night
  • getting out of bed or being more active at night
  • moving back to other areas of sleep — for example, relying on sleep aids you didn’t need before, such as nursing to sleep.
  • 18-month sleep regression does not always occur exactly at 18 months. This can happen at any time during the second year of a child.

Why is it the Hardest?

The 18-month sleep regression can be one of the most difficult for one simple reason:

there is a discipline factor involved that was not present in the previous ones. This regression has a lot to do with your baby’s defiant behavior. Adding anger tantrums and opposing behavior to the 18 months of shouting at night can make parental education totally impossible! The stress of coping with your child’s behavior adds to the exhaustion that he already feels. The lack of sleep that causes this regression can cause your toddler to be in a bad mood, which leads to more tantrums.

How to survive 18-month sleep regression

Offer comfort

Offer comfort without breastfeeding or milk, and do it within the limits of the baby’s room. Once you start taking your child out of his normal sleep environment, you open a box of worms that will be harder to recover.

Be generous with painkillers

These canines can be particularly painful. Consult your pharmacist for advice on using the double dose — Advil and Tylenol for step-by-step administration. Obviously, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the medicine.

Set your own personal limits

Do you agree with baby rocking for 20 minutes to help distract from the whirlwind happening in language or motor development? But it’s an hour to swing too much. Have a general plan before entering.  

Exchange with your partner

At this age, many moms are back to work and a one-hour crib is really killer on a day job. Share with Dad to help relieve pain.


When teething jumps, motor development has passed, and your child is 20 months old, you can tell them about what will happen at night. They’re so afraid of getting lost that they might not want to go to bed. Tell him, “Dad sleeps, and Mom sleeps” and list all the people in his world. It can also help to set limits — “I’m not going to enter your room tonight”… but you have to be prepared to continue with that.

Stay sane

Remember that this will happen, and you are not the only one to whom it happens. This is not due to a new food that you fed your child or to personal guilt. It’s just raising children.

10 Tricks You Can Use to Survive The 18-Month Regression

  1. Try a sticker chart to increase sleep and naps. Stickers carry a lot of weight with most toddlers, so try using them as an incentive to help your baby cooperate at bedtime and nap time.
  2. Strengthen your bedtime routine and give it a definitive end. Good bedtime routines are quite short and very consistent. They also have a definitive ending: you could end up with the same short song or the same good night sentence. This is a strong sign for your child that it’s time to sleep.
  3. Try love. If you have not yet given your child an object of comfort, or a lovey, this is the right time to start. If your 18-month-old child has something to keep in bed that feels comfortable and comforting, you can minimize the frequency at which he calls at night or at the time of napping.
  4. Prepare to take extra naps (if you skip the usual ones) or go to bed early. Part of the regression of 18-month sleep involves fighting sleep (because what self-respecting child wants to sleep when he can play? ;)), so be prepared to help your child catch up with his lost sleep in order to avoid excessive fatigue. (Just make sure all naps are completed before 6:00 p.m.)
  5. Offer a snack before going to bed. Sometimes, a legitimate growth stimulus can overlap with an 18-month sleep regression, so offering a protein-rich snack can help avoid hunger in the middle of the night. Just be sure to brush their teeth after snack time and before going to bed
  6. Providing a night light. At 18 months, your child may start having night fears, so a very soft night light can provide some peace of mind.
  7. Provide simple explanations. Your child is obviously not yet at the age when you can have real conversations, but it may be useful to give your child reasons why he needs to go to bed and sleep enough. Keep your explanations simple, of course, and avoid explaining yourself too much (remember, your child is the king/queen of “but why? ”), but a few simple explanations can help disable the drama of sleep time.
  8. Don’t defeat all your hard work. That is, if you have worked on the training of sleep, do not go back to the old sleep associations! Instead, comfort your child by making mini-versions of what they find comforting. For example, you can hold your child when he wakes up with a bustle, but hold him for a few minutes instead of holding him to sleep. Or sleep with him in your room, but be sure to leave before he falls asleep. This will provide comfort without creating new and bad sleep habits.
  9. Create firm boundaries of “will” and “no”, and then strengthen your child’s boundaries. For example, if your child cannot sleep in his bed, be sure to strengthen him even in the middle of the 18-month sleep regression. If you decided that when your child cries for you at night, you will wait 5 minutes before entering his room, then stay consistent with this.
  10. Be ready to re-train, if necessary. Even small things, like a short cold, can get rid of your child’s normal sleep habits. So it is not surprising that a great regression of sleep can cause great harm! Don’t worry, you can get back on track. Give the regression a few weeks to resolve itself – at this point, if your child is still struggling with sleep, do a little training to get things back on track (believe me, it will probably be much easier this time than the first time!).

Don’t Over Explain or Try to Reason with Your Toddler

A small child at 18 months or even 2 years does not have the development of the prefrontal cortex to have real conversations about the importance of sleep.

Simple explanations, such as “your body needs time to recharge” or

 “it’s time to sleep, and I’ll see you in the morning” are enough at this age, even if you have to repeat yourself 15 times. When your child begins to ask “why,” a simple explanation can spread the drama of bedtime and does not need to go into details.

The hardest part of this sleep regression is whether you need to be firm and implement sleep training strategies or whether you should offer peace of mind.

Only you will know when your baby is legitimately uncomfortable or anxious, and when. Do not forget that a regression of sleep is different from a baby who has never been able to fall asleep independently without having a bottle, a pacifier or being rocked as part of the bedtime routine. If you are caught in funk sleep, I can teach you everything you need to know about how to gently teach your child to sleep.

Should You Stop Sleep Training?

If you are in the middle of sleep training when the 18-month sleep regression comes, you might wonder if you should throw the towel away for a while. We recommend that you do not do this. True, sleep training will probably not produce fantastic results during this phase, but remember that you do not want to promote bad sleep habits during a stage that is finally temporary. As we tell many families, you do not want to adopt or maintain long-term habits in a short-term phase. If you have already trained sleep successfully, try to implement old coaching techniques for sleep to get through this phase. Sleep coaching techniques, such as fading or control and console can help you survive the 18-month sleep regression without falling back into old models.

Your 18-Month Old Should Be in a Crib

Many children do not have a sleep regression at 18 months. Sleep habits change differently for each child, so young children may face problems before or after the 18-month period. It is even possible that some 18-month-old children show a noticeable improvement in sleep. For this reason, it is better to understand sleep regressions as phases that can occur during the development of a child, but not something that is intended to occur for each child at a specific time.

Do All Children Have an 18-Month Sleep Regression?

Many children do not have a sleep regression at 18 months. Sleep habits change differently for each child, so young children may face problems before or after the 18-month period. It is even possible that some 18-month-old children show a noticeable improvement in sleep. For this reason, it is better to understand sleep regressions as phases that can occur during the development of a child, but not something that is intended to occur for each child at a specific time.

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