18 month sleep progression (or regression)

As parents, I am sure we all have heard about the 18 month ‘Sleep Regression’.  After we went through the milk comforting episode with Harvey in my last article Toddler Sleeping, Harvey was sick with a mild gastro which meant, another period of crappy sleep for the Thompson household.  Harvey recovered from his sickness, but his sleeping had gotten worse.  So I decided to research about the common 18 months sleep regression.

What is it?

A sleep regression is simply a baby or toddler who has been sleeping well, but suddenly starts waking at night and/or skipping naps for no apparent reason.  The common periods where most baby experiencing this regression are: 4 month, 8 month, 11 month, 18 month and 2 years old

Click here – for more information on each sleep regression


Why it happens?

According to Baby Sleep Science, the graduation from “baby” sleep to “toddler” sleep usually happens around 18 months.  This transition involves a subtle biological change where a baby transitions from multi-day naps into one day nap.

During these regression periods, a baby can go through an explosion of various development such as

  • motor skills milestones e.g. rolling, sitting and standing
  • emotional development e.g. separation anxiety
  • cognitive development e.g. verbal

So if the regressions are caused by various developments, it would be fair to say Sleep Regression is also a Sleep Progression.  It is actually a normal and positive situation which should reassure that your baby/toddler is developing.

18 month:  One of the Hardest Regressions!

Apparently, the 18 month sleep regression is one of the hardest one of all… I think I agree with this.  We started sleep training Harvey since he was about 4 month old, and since that time with various settling techniques both Jaz and I never had an issue with Harvey’s sleep routine despite the previous regressions we had experienced.

This time however, both Jaz & I noticed the difference.  Harvey entered this sleep regression at around 16 months.

Why 18 months is one of the hardest?

  • Toddlers go through an explosion of development
  • Separation anxiety
  • Growing independency and filled with experimentation challenging the parents to figure out limitations and consequences
  • Transition to one nap which can mean you have a tired toddler who is over tired.
  • Circadian Rhythm drift

Harvey had all the above symptoms except the day-nap transition as Harvey had already dropped his day nap at about 13 months.

Here is our mini audio record of what we went through. This would go on for long periods (up to 15 minutes with our sleep training technique). Beware, you may want to turn the volume down.

How did we Survive?

  • We enforced a more strict bedtime routine.  Harvey’s bedtime routine is:

Night Routines

  • We started to give Harvey a bed time snack e.g toast, cookies to ensure he has a full tummy and just incase he is going through a growth spurt.
  • We went back to square one with controlled crying – applying the responsive/control crying technique which we began when he was 4 month old.  This time we modified the cried-out time to be 5 min increments e.g. 5, 10, 15 ,20… though we never had to go over the 15 minute mark which was lucky.

It took us about a week for Harvey to get back into his sleeping routine at which point he has slept very well.   In fact on some work days, we over-slept and were late for work as we were relying on Harvey to wake us up 🙂




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