3-year Sleep Regression: 9 Expert Tips For Surviving

Even though you likely don’t think newborns will sleep all night, you’d believe that when they grow into a toddler they would reliably sleep and go to bed with a good routine. No matter if that routine is you giving them a bath, telling them a story, or some other cue that causes your child to be ready for bed, you likely would have gotten used to this nightly routine which works well for you and your kid by their second birthday. All your hard work you likely put to producing this calming strategy becomes very concerning if your kid then starts to have problems going to bed after all that time with a reliable bedtime routine.

If a three year old suddenly has bedtime and sleep issues after never having an issue before, starts hating going to bed and begins to wake up several times throughout the night, else they are also waking up extremely early, then it’s likely your child is undergoing three-year-old sleep relapse.

Keep reading to discover more info on this problem, the length of time it could go on, the causes, and things you should do so it doesn’t last long.



  • Three year molars – Discomfort with teething will not make them regress, yet it may bring on night awakenings that trigger a snowball effect of getting overtired.
  • Sleep requirements can change – A three-year-old requires one to three daytime naps, which is less than what they needed at one  year old. Plus they additionally can stay awake longer. If you don’t put them down for a nap by around 1pm, then they may fight bedtime. You should make sure naps are done by 2:30 to 3 pm at the latest. That ensures they’ll be tired enough for bedtime by 7 to 7:30pm, which is when most kids that age go to bed.


  • Taking them out of a crib too soon – a child shouldn’t go from a crib to a toddler bed unless they are around three or if they tell you they want a bed that’s not for babies. If it happens too early, they may decide to get out of the bed and come visit you in your bedroom.
  • Potty training – A few three-year-olds may be ready to get potty trained, but some kids are not until around three-years-old. If they are trying to potty train, it can affect their sleeping habits as they master this brand-new skill. That is going to occur no matter if you start potty training at three or three.
  • They get a brand-new brother or sister – At around three, many folks decide to have a second child. That’s a major change for that three-year-old, as well as being challenging for the parents to take care of three kids.
  • Beginning daycare or preschool – entering daycare may be both fun and overwhelming. It’s likely their first time being away from the parents. And the 1st time sleeping somewhere besides their own beds if they nap there. Plus there’s a lot of new activities and that can tire them out fast.


  • Separation anxiety can get worse at this age and may intensify – that means your child does not wish to be by themselves and you’ll find that out when they protest quite FORCEFULLY!
  • FOMO – A three-year-old starts to figure out there’s lots happening whenever they are in bed and so they want to be in on the goings on.
  • Anxieties – At about three a child’s imagination gets bigger. That can bring fun and some silly playtimes, however, it can also bring on anxieties. Kids start to notice their environment more and the things in their lives. The most common anxieties include being scared of the dark, monsters and shadows.
  • Testing your limits as well as a heightened wish to control and be more independent – Three-year-olds are well-known for desiring everything to go according to their wants so they constantly push the limits. They are prone to say, “NO!” and have lots of willpower to attempt t make us agree with them.

Can three-year-olds take melatonin?

There’s a lot of discussion on if young kids can take melatonin and studies are underway. Talk to your physician prior to giving it to a toddler.

Why do three-year-olds wake up a lot during the night?

There’s a lot of causes for this. A common one is getting overtired.  Ensure they are put to bed in time so they get enough sleep, especially if they don’t take naps anymore. Like with a baby, a leap in their development can bring on them waking up at night. Also, some kids this age get night terrors that wake them up.

Ways to manage three-year-old sleep regression

No matter if your child is 18 months, 2 years, or three, the following tips can assist you with sleep regression and helping them sleep better.

Guarantee their health and their safety

Firstly, you must make sure you are meeting all your child’s needs. Be certain they are not having some kind of pain, or they are not sick or otherwise uncomfortable. If you did this already, then look at their environment and see if something could be causing the bedtime issues.

For instance, if they are getting out of their bed, be sure if it’s a crib that it is in the lowest slot. If your crib rail is at that lowest slot, and it’s right at or under your kid’s nipples when they stand up, then you need to switch them into a toddler sized bed.

If they already sleep in a toddler sized bed, be sure you make their room childproof by anchoring down all the room’s furniture, as well as getting rid of anything that could break or be dangerous. Follow all all kinds of best practices for keeping a kid safe via childproofing. Then they will be fairly safe if they get up and wander around at night. If they are scared of the dark, then put a night light in their room to make them feel safer.

Don’t Get Rid of Naps

You really shouldn’t get rid of naps. This is a time of sleep regression and it could all go back to normal after you tweak a few times and wait things out. If you get rid of naps at three-years-old, they will never take a nap when they are three either. Lots of parents lament the fact their kid gave up naps as a three-year-old and are sorry they did. A lot of three-year-olds don’t want to take naps, but even if it is tempting to let them have their way, it is better to make them take a daily nap. They likely will stop needing a nap at four-years-old. Then they also will be less grumpy since younger kids still need that one hour nap.

Do Ponder Illness/Teething

Toddlers may have trouble sleeping because teeth are growing in and/or they could be ill. For instance, ear infections hurt and make a child not want to sleep. Or even just a regular cold my interrupt their sleep. You should always make sure if they are sick or not when they keep waking up. If so, nothing else you do besides help them get through that sickness will assist in making them sleep better.

Do Examine The Length of Time They Are Awake

Your child may require being awake a longer timeframe prior to that daily nap. You’ve already found out that a baby’s sleep time can be sensitive, and their waking times can vary. This happens with older kids too. They may require being in bed ten or more minutes more so they will still take that daily nap Check out these three posts: Ideal Wake timeframe for a Toddler and Timing a Toddler’s Nap.

Do Ponder Changes in Their Life

Toddlers could be changing to a bigger bed, having a new brother or sister, or beginning something new like daycare. For instance, they may need more time to get used to that big kid bed and be a bit anxious.

Or maybe you moved them to a new bedroom to make room for another baby in their lives, and this can be stressful for a three-year-old. Or if you’ve started potty training, it too can bring on sleep regression. They may be excited because they have to get up during the night so they can go to the bathroom and not want to have an accident. All these occurrences can bring on sleep problems.

Do Maintain Consistency and Rules

Remain consistent with all the rules you have put into place for sleep time. Your child might begin to test you and get out of their bed even if you have told them they must stay. React so that you still have set the mood for them to have good sleeping habits in the long run. Keep naps and bedtime precisely the same every day. Anticipate that sleeping will be a fact in your kid’s life.

Remain relaxed and steady

After tackling your kid’s issues for their health, safety, atmosphere, and routine, then it is time for looking inward to find your patience so you can react calmly and be relaxed enough to handle things until their sleep regression ends.

If they are coming out of bed and into your room all the time, the experts say you should remain calm, and just take them back to their room and put them into bed again and not be emotional about it. If  you like, you could just sit beside your kid’s door for a little while and each time they come out remind them they have to go to bed.

Though it could be appealing to make them go back to bed again and again, it is really easier to just make sure the room is childproof, and let them stay there and play with a few simple toys until they tire out and go to sleep on their own.

Do Think About Nighttime Worries

Your child might wake up because he had a bad dream or a night terror. If that happens a lot then they could want to avoid bedtime. Good news, however, there’s ways to help them through this and a few simple deeds may help you avoid them.

Sleep requirements for three-year-olds

Whilst it may at times seem as if kids don’t seem to need much sleep, in truth three-year-olds require eleven to fourteen hours of sleep. This can be divided between naps and night sleeping If they don’t get the required amount you are probably going to see they have behavior problems and won’t want to nap or go to bed because they are overtired.


Should kids cry it out?

A lot of parents either lock their kid’s door or let them cry until they fall asleep. However, if you do this they might just scream louder when you don’t go to them. That is because they see it as a break in their trust with you. They see it as you don’t care about them anymore and this can bring on a lot of behavior issues and upsets you don’t need or want.

Instead, I suggest trying what’s called the Excuse me method. You  put them to bed, then say “excuse me, I forgot something. You are doing great staying in your bed. I will be back in a moment.” Stay away a few minutes, then come back and if they are still in bed, praise them, then do it again a couple more times. It has worked for a lot of folks I worked with.

How long does sleep regression last?

That is a good question! It depends wholly on the kid. Generally, making sure your family members all get sufficient sleep is much more vital than anything you may read in books. Book writers do not know y our exact situation. So, listen to your instinct and you’ll see there’s tons of sleep solutions, you just need to find the one which works for your family.

Ways a nap affects things

Their daily nap could affect their sleep if it is not timed correctly for three-year-olds. This age does still need naps, and some kids will try to refuse to go take one, but normally they will be napping at least til age four. If they fight their nap you likely will go through hell that afternoon, but they will get tired and usually the next day they will nap willingly. You must have patience and try to keep that afternoon nap!


Whenever things seem they are just too much, remember three-year-old sleep regression is merely a phase you have to live through and it too shall pass. It usually does not last very long, so rest assured you won’t have to deal with it forever.

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