Your once great sleeper, who used to drift off to dreamland without a fuss, suddenly starts resisting bedtime. It’s like a switch flipped overnight. Now bedtime is a battle that seems to stretch into eternity. And to top it off, they’re waking up at night too. If this sounds familiar, rest assured, you’re not alone. I’m here to guide you through this temporary setback known as the 3yr sleep regression.

I’ve been a pediatric sleep coach for over a decade. And I’ve worked with so many families dealing with the frustrations of the 3yr sleep regression. But here’s the good news. With the right approach, this phase can be navigated successfully.

Let’s take a look at the underlying causes of the 3yr sleep regression and the signs to be looking for to see if your child is experiencing it. Then, I’m going to discuss practical strategies to help you overcome it. From establishing a consistent bedtime routine to setting clear boundaries and expectations, I’m going to provide you with the tools and support you need to tackle bedtime battles and nighttime awakenings head-on.

Ready to navigate the 3yr sleep regression? Let’s do this!

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What is the 3yr Sleep Regression?

The 3yr sleep regression can be such a challenging phase in a toddler’s development. At this age, children undergo significant cognitive, emotional, and physical changes, which can disrupt their sleep patterns. I find there’s generally 3 things that lead to the 3yr sleep regression. Let’s break those down:

One of the primary developmental milestones during this period is the emergence of imagination and creativity. Three-year-olds begin to engage in imaginative play. And this fuels their curiosity and desire to explore the world around them. This newfound creativity can lead to vivid dreams or nightmares, causing disruptions in their sleep. Additionally, their expanding cognitive abilities may result in heightened anxiety or fear of the dark, further contributing to sleep disturbances.

The second crucial aspect of development at this age is language acquisition. Three-year-olds are rapidly expanding their vocabulary and linguistic skills, which can manifest in increased nighttime chatter or verbal expression of fears and anxieties. This verbal exploration may lead to frequent waking during the night as they seek comfort or reassurance from caregivers.

Lastly, three-year-olds are asserting their independence and autonomy, often testing boundaries and pushing limits. All of a sudden, your 3 year old wont go to bed. This newfound independence can manifest in bedtime resistance, as they strive for control over their environment and routines. Additionally, their growing sense of self-awareness may result in separation anxiety, making it challenging for them to settle down and fall asleep without having you by their side.

While navigating the ups and downs of the 3yr sleep regression may be exhausting, just remember that it’s a sign of growth and development in your child. And know that you know what it is, let’s see how long it is that the 3yr sleep regression lasts.

3yr Sleep Regression How Long

Typically occurring around the age of 2.5 to 3 years old, this regression can last for several weeks to a few months, varying from child to child.

The duration of the 3-year sleep regression varies among children. The 3yr sleep regression can last from a few weeks to several months. Some toddlers may experience brief disruptions, while others endure more prolonged challenges.

This discrepancy in duration can often be attributed to a combination of factors, including individual temperament, coping mechanisms, and the unique developmental journey of each child. Understanding that the 3-year sleep regression how long it lasts can help us as parents navigate this period.

Is swaddling a newborn necessary

 

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the duration of the 3 year sleep regression, knowing when your child is actually experiencing the 3yr sleep regression is going to help you know when it’s time to take action. 

How do you know when your child is going through the 3yr sleep regression? This developmental milestone often manifests in a series of unmistakable signs, disrupting previously established sleep patterns and leaving families feeling exhausted and frustrated. Understanding these signs is crucial for navigating this challenging time.

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3 Year Sleep Regression Signs

Here are some specific 3 year sleep regression signs:

» Bedtime Battles: One of the most common 3 year sleep regression signs is a sudden resistance to bedtime. Your 3 year old wont go to bed. They used to be such a cooperative sleeper but now protest, negotiate, or stall when it comes to going to bed.

» Frequent Night Wakings: Another sign of the regression is that your 3 yr old won’t sleep through the night anymore. They have an increase in night awakenings. Your child may wake up multiple times throughout the night, seeking comfort, reassurance, or attention.

» Erratic Naps: Naps, which were once a predictable part of your child’s daily routine, may become erratic or disappear altogether during this regression period. Your 3 yr old won’t sleep for naps at all anymore or struggles to settle down for their usual naptime.

» Increased Emotional Outbursts: The 3yr sleep regression can also be accompanied by an uptick in emotional outbursts during the day. Your child may become more irritable, cranky, or prone to tantrums due to disrupted sleep.

» Nightmares or Night Terrors: Some children may experience an increase in nightmares or night terrors during this time.

Navigating these 3 year sleep regression signs can be challenging. I want you to remember that the 3yr sleep regression is a temporary phase. But I sometimes find that it’s during the 3yr sleep regression that new, and not so great sleep habits can start to form. I’m going to help you nip those in the bud so that you don’t have your 3 year old pushing boundaries at bedtime sneaking into your bed every night going forward.  

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3 Year Old Wont Go to Bed

During the 3yr sleep regression, bedtime can become a battleground. This is because your little now begins to assert their independence. They may exhibit newfound resistance, refusing to go to bed despite obviously being tired. This behavior can manifest as stalling tactics or demands during the bedtime routine. And I’ve heard them all. Your kiddos starts to make multiple requests for water. They demand one more hug (for the hundredth time). Or they request yet another trip to the bathroom.

As a part of this regression, I also find that a 3 year old wont go to bed easily. They’re now starting to push boundaries to test your parental limits. They may demand additional stories or insist on having specific toys in bed. And all of a sudden, the bedtime routine is starting to take FOREVER. This defiance can result in bedtime taking much longer than it used to. Now you’re beyond frustrated and your 3 year old is extremely overtired. 

In an effort to speed up the bedtime process, some parents resort to staying with their 3yr old or laying with them until they fall asleep. While this may provide immediate relief, I really advice against this. It can quickly become a slippery slope. After a few nights of this new routine, your 3yr old will expect your parental presence to fall asleep. And it can be difficult to break the habit.

3yr Old Bedtime

During the 3yr sleep regression, establishing a consistent bedtime and routine is essential. A typical 3yr old bedtime falls between 7-8 pm for optimal rest. The routine should last about 20-30 minutes to prepare your child for sleep.

Starting with a bath helps relax your little one and signals the beginning of bedtime. Using the potty right after that ensures they are comfortable before settling down. It will also help you to know that they’re going to bed with an empty bladder, so if they ask to go again, you’ll know it’s a stalling technique. After using the potty, they’ll get dressed into their pajamas.

After getting dressed, I like to read two stories. Stories are a great calming activity that promotes bonding between the two of you and stimulates their imagination. And as the last step of the bedtime routine, adding a short massage or story massage can further relax your 3 year old before bed. Finally, lights out signals the official start of sleep time.

Following this simple bedtime routine during the 3yr sleep regression helps establish consistency and predictability. It reinforces your 3 year old’s understanding of bedtime expectations. Consistency in timing and activities helps regulate their sleep-wake cycle. You can always adapt the routine to suit your child’s needs and preferences.

 

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3yr Old Won’t Sleep Through the Night

During the 3yr sleep regression, your child may start waking up in the middle of the night, disrupting their sleep patterns (and yours!). I’ve worked with some children who quietly sneak into their parents’ bed and stay there the rest of the night and others who have loudly call out for their parents, refusing to go back to sleep alone.

A common scenario during the 3yr sleep regression is when a 3yr old won’t sleep and insists on having a parent stay with them until they fall asleep again. This can disrupt the entire household’s sleep and lead to exhaustion for both you and your 3 year old. And without clear boundaries, some children may have prolonged nighttime meltdowns due to the sheer fatigue they experience. I worked with one 3 year old who was up for HOURS each night screaming and keeping the entire house up.

As a result of these wakings, so many parents find themselves faced with the challenge of repeatedly soothing their child back to sleep throughout the night. And that leads to a cycle of sleep deprivation for the entire family. No thanks!

How do you prevent these bedtime battles and night wakings? Or if you’re currently experiencing them, how do you break the habit? As an experienced pediatric sleep coach, I’m going to share my secrets.

3yr Sleep Regression Solutions

Establishing firm boundaries and expectations regarding nighttime sleep is absolutely crucial during this phase. Encouraging independence and self-soothing skills during bedtime can help mitigate nighttime awakenings and promote better sleep habits in the long run.

During the 3yr sleep regression, establishing clear rules for nighttime sleep is absolutely crucial. I recommend that you introduce three new rules to help manage bedtime disruptions. First, your child needs to lay down. Second, they should lay quietly without getting out of bed. Third, they must stay quiet until their clock indicates morning.

Ok, they’re 3 years old. They don’t know how to read time. That’s ok. I recommend using a clock like the Hatch that changes colors when it’s time to get up.

These new rules provide structure and consistency, which guide 3yr olds through the bedtime routine. By setting clear expectations, you establish boundaries that help mitigate nighttime awakenings. Encouraging independence reinforces your 3 year old’s ability to self-soothe and fall asleep independently.

The implementation of these rules during the 3yr sleep regression teaches children valuable sleep habits. They learn the importance of respecting bedtime boundaries and staying in bed until morning. Consistency is key in reinforcing these rules, even in the face of resistance. You may even need to implement a small consequence if they’re not following the rules.

As your 3 year old adapts to the new sleep rules, you will start to see improvements in their sleep over the span of a week or two. The introduction of these clear expectations fosters a sense of security and predictability. And that will reduce bedtime battles and nighttime awakenings. Ultimately, these new rules promote healthier sleep habits for the entire family. As a result, you’ll have a more restful night’s sleep during the 3yr sleep regression and beyond.

Help with the 3yr Sleep Regression

As a pediatric sleep coach, I understand how it feels to go through tumultuous 3yr sleep regression phase.

Having worked extensively with countless families struggling with bedtime battles and nighttime disruptions, I’ve honed my expertise in crafting tailored solutions to address these challenges effectively.

The frustration of dealing with a 3yr old who wont go to bed or wakes up repeatedly throughout the night can take a toll on the entire family’s well-being.

That’s where I step in to offer guidance, support, and practical solutions to navigate through this challenging time.

 

 

Is swaddling a newborn necessary

Through years of experience, I’ve developed a comprehensive approach that revolves around understanding your child’s unique needs and family dynamics. I firmly believe in the power of gentle sleep training methods. Prioritizing the emotional well-being of both the child and the parents is very important. In other words, I help parents lay the foundation for better sleep for their child and themselves. And we do this together by fostering a nurturing sleep environment and establishing healthy sleep habits.

Fixing the 3yr Sleep Regression

My process begins with a thorough assessment of your child’s sleep patterns, habits, and environment. From there, I develop a customized sleep plan and step-by-step guidance and support. This will align with your goals, values, and parenting philosophy.

One of the key aspects of my approach is ongoing support and follow-up. I understand that implementing changes to a child’s sleep routine can be daunting. And that’s why I offer continuous support to parents every step of the way. From answering questions and troubleshooting challenges to providing encouragement and reassurance, I’m there to help you stay motivated and confident in their journey towards better sleep for you child.

If you’re struggling with a 3yr old who won’t sleep or facing challenges during the 3yr sleep regression, know that you’re not alone. Schedule a free Discovery Call with me today. We’ll discuss your child’s sleep struggles and learn how I can support you in achieving better sleep for your child and family. It’s completely complementary so we can see if we’re a good fit for each other. Together, we can navigate through the ups and downs of the 3yr sleep regression. And best of all, we’ll help your child develop healthy sleep habits that last a lifetime.

«  About the Author  »

I’m Kaley Medina, the proud founder of Live Love Sleep®. I live in Texas with my husband and high school sweetheart, Zeke, along with our two wonderful children, Evalyn and Leo, and our furry companion, Louie.
My journey into the world of sleep consultancy began with the sleep struggles of my own daughter, Evalyn. From her early days, she proved to be a challenging sleeper, staying awake for waaaaaay too long and causing many sleepless nights. I tried everything I could think of, from feeding her to sleep to bouncing on a yoga ball until my legs ached to the delicate process of transitioning her to her crib without waking her. I even resorted to late-night vacuuming while wearing her in a baby carrier….needless to say, none of it work.

The constant sleep deprivation left me frazzled and unable to enjoy precious moments with my family. Desperate for a solution, I ventured into the world of sleep training when Evalyn turned six months. To my surprise,

gentler methods yielded incredible results, transforming our lives. Fueled by this success, I became a Certified Sleep Consultant and founded Live Love Sleep®. As your Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I understand that a child’s sleep is influenced by various factors, including diet, sleep environment, routines, schedules, developmental milestones, and so much more.

I craft personalized sleep plans that consider the bigger picture to solve your child’s sleep challenges comprehensively. What sets my services apart is the ongoing support I provide, ensuring your family reaches its sleep goals within weeks.

A former client described the experience as “utterly LIFE CHANGING.” I’m committed to helping parents like you and your child get the rest you need and deserve. Let’s work together to achieve better sleep and a happier, healthier family life.

Features

Kaley has been featured on numerous podcasts, on NBC, CBS, Yahoo!, Forbes, Texas Today, MindBodyGreen, WonderBaby.org, Work & Mother, Homes and Gardens, TinyBeans, and more!