18-month sleep regression guide: Causes, signs, and tips to manage baby sleep


You’ve navigated the babyhood sleep hurdles, and are finally settling into a cozy routine with your toddler. Yet suddenly, you’re faced with a familiar pattern: disrupted sleep, unsettled nights, and a sinking feeling of déjà vu. No wonder you’re wondering, “Is this another sleep regression?”

While not every little one experiences it, some toddlers do indeed hit an 18-month sleep regression. In our blog, we’ll delve into the ins and outs of this phase: what triggers it, when it typically strikes, and most importantly, how you can navigate through it.

So take a deep breath, grab a comforting cuppa, and let’s navigate this journey together.

Is there an 18-month sleep regression?

Yes and no. Sleep regressions vary from baby to baby. Some experience them, and some don’t, but, 18-month-olds can face regressions. At 18 months old, your baby will be well into toddlerhood, during which rapid cognitive, physical, and emotional changes occur.

Why does the 18-month sleep regression happen?

Aside from your baby’s first and biggest sleep regression at 4 months old, which occurs because their body begins to develop a circadian rhythm (the internal clock that differentiates between night and day), other sleep regressions are brought on by developmental changes.

According to the Sleep Foundation, physical, mental, and emotional changes affect the quality and quantity of your child’s sleep, in other words, how soundly and how much they sleep.

Furthermore, this regression can be linked to physiological changes, developmental leaps, and nap transitions.

Physiological changes include growth spurts, teething, and the emergence of new gross and fine motor skills. Mentally, toddlers at this age are making huge advances in their language and understanding, adding new words to their vocabulary and developing an understanding of patterns and symbols. They may also experience an increase in separation anxiety, as they become more self-aware and assert their independence.

What causes the 18-month sleep regression?

The developmental changes that could trigger 18-month sleep regressions include:

1. Increased mobility

Your toddler’s increased mobility, such as learning to stand or walk, can lead to restlessness during sleep. As they become more physically active during the day, they may struggle to settle down at bedtime, resulting in frequent tossing, turning, and overall restlessness during the night.

2. Development of communication skills

The development of communication skills, such as vocabulary expansion and language acquisition, can impact sleep patterns. Your toddler may become more vocal and expressive, leading to nighttime wake-ups as they seek comfort or express their needs verbally.

3. Teething discomfort

Teething can be a common source of discomfort for toddlers around 18 months of age. The pain and discomfort associated with teething can disrupt sleep patterns, causing frequent night awakenings and restlessness.

4. Separation anxiety

As toddlers become more aware of their surroundings and attachments deepen with caregivers, they may develop separation anxiety. This anxiety can manifest during bedtime, leading to increased nighttime wake-ups and difficulty falling asleep independently.

5. Overstilimuation or seeking independence

Toddlers may resist bedtime due to overstimulation from daytime activities or newfound desires for independence. This resistance can manifest as a reluctance to settle down for sleep, leading to bedtime battles and disrupted sleep routines.

6. Dropping a nap or adapting to changing sleep schedules

Dropping a nap or adjusting to changing sleep schedules can disrupt the toddler’s overall sleep patterns. This transition can lead to shorter naps or difficulty settling down for bedtime, resulting in increased nighttime wake-ups and overall sleep regression.

7. Development of cognitive functions such as thinking and reasoning

Your toddler’s growing awareness of their surroundings and increased mental activity may make it challenging for them to switch off their minds and relax into sleep.

Signs your baby is undergoing 18-month sleep regression

Navigating the 18-month sleep regression can be challenging for both you and your toddler. Recognizing the signs of this developmental phase is crucial for understanding your kiddo’s changing sleep patterns. 

We’ve outlined some common indicators that your little one may be experiencing the 18-month sleep regression.

The Sleep Foundation lists the following as the most common signs/symptoms of sleep regression that parents should look for:

1. Fussiness or resistance to bedtime

Your baby may resist or become upset during their usual bedtime routine, showing signs of frustration or agitation.

2. The inability to relax or fall asleep when in bed

Your baby may struggle to relax or unwind when placed in their bed, exhibiting signs of restlessness or resistance to sleep.

3. Increased crying when you try to leave them at bedtime

Your baby may resist or become upset during their usual bedtime routine, showing signs of frustration or agitation.

4. Frequent nighttime awakenings

Your toddler might start waking up more often throughout the night, requiring extra soothing and comfort to settle back into sleep.

5. Difficulty calming down after waking up at night

Your toddler may struggle to calm down and return to sleep after waking up at night, experiencing increased restlessness.

6. More frequent or longer daytime naps

Your baby’s daytime naps may become shorter or more erratic, leading to increased fussiness or tiredness during the day.

When does the 18-month sleep regression start and end?

It may be called the 18-month sleep regression, but don’t let the name fool you. It could start anywhere between 14 to 18 months old.

Once a sleep regression starts, it might end after a few weeks without any obvious signs. The exact time when a sleep regression ends depends on your child and the developmental changes causing the regression.

Once your little one overcomes the 18-month sleep regression, there is no guarantee that further sleep troubles will not occur. These highs and lows are normal, so, it’s better to prepare yourself for future sleep disruptions.

Maintaining a consistent sleep routine will help your toddler develop healthy sleep habits and possibly prevent future regressions.

If your child’s sleep issues persist for a month or longer, consult your pediatrician.

How to handle baby’s 18-month sleep regression: Tips and tricks

There is no cure for the 18-month sleep regression besides waiting it out if it does occur. However, you should look at the bigger picture and help your toddler develop healthy sleep habits. These habits will ensure your child (and you), gets quality sleep once the regression ends.

Here are some tips to enhance your toddler’s sleep, suggested by The Sleep Foundation:

1. Stay consistent

Stick to the same bedtime routine to give your toddler cues that it is time to sleep. Include soothing activities like a calming bath and reading a book. Ensure your toddler’s sleep space is dimly lit and that they are comfortable. Additionally, use a reassuring tone when saying goodnight to prevent separation anxiety.

2. Sleep schedule

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule for naps and bedtime reinforces a positive sleep pattern. Therefore, try to put baby down to sleep at the same times every day.

3. Keep them active

During the day, ensure your toddler gets enough activity to burn excess energy, as this will help them fall asleep more easily at night. Additionally, exposing them to sunlight daily will aid in developing their circadian rhythm.

4. Limit their screen time

Reduce the time spent in front of screens. If your toddler usually watches TV or YouTube, try to avoid it an hour or two before bedtime and before naps. It’s best to refrain from showing any screen content once they’re settled in their crib or toddler bed.

5. Avoid introducing new changes or habits

While it may seem like the right age to introduce new habits like potty training to your toddler’s schedule, avoid introducing something new in their routine during a regression.

While these activities can aid in helping your little one get better sleep in the long run, it won’t happen right away so remember to be patient and give it time.


Many parents burn out during sleep regressions because they put all their attention on their child and lose sight of themselves. To show up and be present for your child, you must show up for yourself first. You need to get adequate sleep and stay healthy to become an attentive and supportive parent.

Remember, parenting is hard. Even when you do everything right sleep problems occur and in fact, are expected. Be patient with yourself and your baby and you will eventually overcome the hardships of sleep regressions.

Other posts you might like:


You may also like


Stay in the know

Sign up to get sleep tips, exciting product updates, and special offers right into your inbox.