Your 18 Month Sleep Regression Survival Guide


How to survive the 18 month sleep regressionIf you’re reading this, you probably have an active toddler who’s learning all sorts of new skills by the day. And I’m guessing that your 18 month old has suddenly stopped sleeping well. Am I right? The 18 month sleep regression comes out of nowhere and wreaks havoc on toddler’s sleep, leaving parents puzzled and exhausted. It is zero fun.

If your toddler has suddenly become clingy, or is fighting nap time, bedtime, having more night wakings or waking earlier in the morning- the 18 month sleep regression may be to blame. Or it could be that they’re ready to drop a nap or their molars are coming in. This guide will help you figure out what the heck is going on, and give you a specific plan to get your baby sleeping better, right away!


This post may contain affiliate links.


The Ultimate 18 Month Sleep Regression Survival Guide


What is the 18 month sleep regression? 

18 month old milestones

Signs of the 18 month sleep regression

Can this regression happen early (or late?)

How long does this regression last?

Does separation anxiety cause the 18 month sleep regression?

How to ease separation anxiety in your 18 month old

Nap tips

Should I start sleep training during the 18 month old sleep regression? 



What is the 18 month sleep regression? 


A sleep regression is a temporary disruption in your baby’s sleep due to development. While this may sound like a negative thing, it’s quite the opposite!

Sleep regressions happen because your baby is going through significant developmental growth, which is wonderful to see, as a parent. 

When they’re developing, either physically or cognitively, it’s normal for their sleep to worsen temporarily while the brain adjusts to big developmental changes.


There are two things that make the 18 month sleep regression unique:


Firstly, your toddler is mastering several developmental skills at this age, rather than only one or two skills like earlier regressions. That can make this regression rougher than previous ones.

Secondly, your child is older now and sleep resistance tends to be stronger. A protesting toddler can be much louder and stubborn than a 4 month old!

Your toddler may now be saying “NO!” all the time or throwing tantrums throughout the day. This is really different than when your baby was younger and may have cried a bit more or was extra clingy. A toddler’s protests can be really loud and torturous, as you surely already know!


18 month old milestones


At 18 months old, your little one is learning all kinds of skills. Physical, cognitive, language and communication AND social skills. That’s a lot to handle!


  • Physical milestones: your toddler is probably walking at 18 months old, but they may also be walking up stairs (yikes!) or walking backwards. 


  • Cognitive milestones: 18 month olds imitate what we say as a way of learning. They point to things to get our attention and they are starting to understand (and imitate) the use of everyday objects, like talking on the phone or brushing their hair.


  • Language and communication milestones: Your toddler might be saying a few words at this age, which is super cute and amazing for us parents to witness. 


  • Social milestones: Your toddler may be showing interest in playing with others. They might hand you a toy, or instruct you to do something (like catch the ball.) You might also see them playing pretend games with a toy, like a doll or stuffed animal.


Look at how much our toddlers are accomplishing at this age!

The developmental changes your 18 month old is going through require their brain to work constantly, trying to process and master all of these new skills. As a result, sleep can take a big hit.

Whether it’s from their brain and body feeling “wired” when trying to fall asleep, or separation anxiety causing them to fear being alone at bedtime, it’s only natural that your 18 month old would have a difficult time with sleep. 

If you want to learn more about development at this age, check out this article.


Signs of the 18 month sleep regression


So, your toddler is having sleep troubles right now. But how can you be sure it’s the 18 month regression?

If your little one is around 18 months and their sleep has suddenly gotten worse, here are common signs that help point to a regression:


Separation anxiety

It’s very normal for little ones to have separation anxiety at this age. This manifests as increased clinginess and fussiness. Even the most independent of toddlers might suddenly freak out when their parents leave the room. Your baby might also cling onto you when new people are around.  

Some toddlers repeatedly look to their caregiver when they’re exploring, to make sure they’re still nearby. Many parents report their 18 month olds suddenly crying when placed in the crib at bedtime or for naps. Anytime they might be separated from you can cause them distress. 

Although it can be stressful and worry, try to remember that it’s normal. (More details coming in a minute!)


Practicing new skills

When our little ones are working through developmental milestones, their brains are constantly working to master it.

If you see your baby learning any of the skills mentioned in the previous section AND their sleep has suddenly gotten worse, this could be a sign of the 18 month regression. 


Sudden changes in sleep habits or routines with no other obvious explanation

Sudden and out of the blue changes in your baby’s sleep habits could definitely point to the 18 month sleep regression as the cause. This goes for sleep trained babies and babies still needing their parent’s help for sleep.

If your toddler hasn’t been sick recently, you didn’t go on any trips, or no other obvious disruptions to your toddler’s sleep can be figured out – chances are it’s a regression. 


Signs unrelated to this regression

We can’t blame the 18 month regression for everything, though!

Two other factors to be considered at this age (which can interrupt good sleep habits) are the 2-1 nap transition (when your toddler is ready to drop the second nap) and eruption of your baby’s first molars (which happens between 13-19 months.) See my teething pain remedies video here.

So, if your 18 month old is still taking two naps (and especially if they’re fighting naps) OR chewing on everything in sight, consider these two other sleep disruptors. 


Can this regression happen early (or late?)


Regressions are a by-product of your toddler’s budding development. And although most children develop in a similar timeframe, each child is different.

If your toddler is experiencing many of the signs of the 18 month sleep regression and is 17-19 months old, they could be going through this regression. Also, if your child was born premature, consider their adjusted age.


How long does this regression last?


I typically give regressions two weeks to “run their course”. Then it’s ok to begin sleep training your 18 month old.

At this point, many of your toddler’s sleep patterns will be turning into habit so it’s a great time to actively help your child start sleeping well. 

My sleep training program 21 Days to Peace and Quiet is carefully planned to fit your individual child and family. Your baby’s personality, age, and your parenting style are all taken into consideration in order to find the best method.

There’s also the option of getting personal support from me, my Support Team, and other parents who are on the same journey!

If you’re considering sleep training so you and your toddler can finally get the sleep you need, then join us in 21 Days to Peace and Quiet. 


Does separation anxiety cause the 18 month sleep regression?


A lot of parents wonder if separation anxiety causes the 18 month sleep regression. Or vice versa. The truth is, they’re interrelated and feed off of each other.

Separation anxiety is when your baby or toddler is suddenly more upset being separated from you. They may be clingier and fussier in general, or when they’re in a new place or with new people. Many (formerly independent) little ones start crying, screaming or throwing a tantrum.

Although it can feel nerve-wracking as a parent, it’s important to remember that separation anxiety is a normal part of development. As your child goes through big changes (both physical and cognitive) separation anxiety acts as a defence, or survival instinct.

Our children become more vulnerable when they’re growing and learning new skills, so they tend to cling on to their loved ones in order to feel safe during these times of change. They cry when you leave because they want to be close to you, and they also reject unfamiliar faces and places as a way to protect themselves.

Also, preparing for sleep marks a clear time when your toddler will be away from you. That’s why going into their bedroom or putting on pajamas can make them cling on to you or start wailing.

Similarly, waking up early from a nap or throughout the night presents an opportunity to see you! (That’s an optimistic way to interpret night wakings!) 

Presenting an even bigger challenge, at this age toddlers are more aware of what’s happening around them.

They’re now old enough to understand that you’re about to leave when you put on your shoes or jacket. And depending on their personality, a bright shiny toy might not be enough to distract them from the stress of separation.


How to Ease Separation Anxiety in your 18 Month Old

If you want to find out exactly how to ease your toddler’s separation anxiety, I’ve got just the tip for you.

My brand new FREE ‘Sleep Regression Survival Guide’ explains exactly what to do to help your baby sleep well during a regression.

It has proven tips that help each sleep regression pass as quickly as possible. It also explains the best ways to ease your little one’s separation anxiety and tells you what to do when your baby is standing or sitting up in the crib, instead of sleeping!

It’s totally free and you can get it here.


An extra tip

Hanging a simple daily routine on the wall provides a lot of relief to parents and toddlers. You can make your own by drawing or printing a few pictures, or find one on Etsy.

For example, hang your bedtime routine in your toddler’s room. Include photos of bath time, pajamas, books, songs, and the crib.

Providing this visual version of your sleep routine helps your toddler understand what will happen and gives you “support” when the sleep routine ends.

Keep a clear and definitive end to your bedtime routine, to minimize their insistence on more songs or books. 


Nap tips


The 18 month regression can affect several aspects of your toddler’s sleep, including naps. It’s common to see little ones fighting naps, skipping naps or taking short naps. All in a day’s work for a toddler, right?


My top tips for dealing with your 18 month old’s naps:


Adjust your sleep schedule.

If your toddler is taking longer to fall asleep, plan for that ahead of time.

Put them down earlier for a nap, to make sure that after the “fuss” your toddler still has the opportunity to take a long nap.


Stay on track.

Try to avoid going back too many steps from where you are right now. For example, if your 18 month old was sleeping independently, avoid pulling them into your bed and co-sleeping for naps. (More work to undo later.)

You may need to give extra comfort or linger in their bedroom to help them fall asleep, but aim to keep them sleeping in their crib.

If your 18 month old still takes two naps a day, you can consider transitioning to one nap with my guide here. And if your toddler is completely refusing to nap, this guide will help

If your toddler was napping well before this regression, keep the same sleep schedule that previously worked. Once the regression passes, your little one should bounce back into their good napping groove.

If your toddler has never really napped well, my nap training program will show you how to get them taking long, restful naps everyday in the crib on their own.


Should I start sleep training during the 18 month sleep regression?


Sleep training during a sleep regression is like throwing gasoline on a fire. Your baby is going through a surge of development, which makes it hard for their brain and body to “switch off” and relax so they can sleep long stretches. 

The best approach when your little one is obviously struggling is to keep them as well-rested as possible. Aim for 2-3 hours of napping everyday and 10-12 hours of nighttime sleep.

You may even need to linger in your toddler’s bedroom to help them fall asleep or do more hands-on comforting like holding, rocking or feeding. 

After two weeks of disrupted sleep, you can begin sleep training your 18 month old. At this point, it’s safe to assume that any lingering sleep issues are now becoming a habit, so the best way forward is to teach your toddler to sleep through the night on their own.

My sleep training program shows you exactly how to do this!


To sum up…

There is a lot going on for our toddlers at this age. At 18 months old, your baby is mastering physical, cognitive, social AND emotional milestones. It’s only normal that there would be a sleep regression at this age as well as separation anxiety. 

However, following the tips in this article will definitely help you ride out the storm.

Sleep training is a really effective way of setting up healthy sleep patterns for your little one that can help them (and you) get restful sleep for years, which is something you’ll thank yourself for doing, over and over! 

Good luck!


a guide for parents to help their baby sleep better

Let’s stay connected!


  1. Patricia King

    My 18 month old was able to be to put himself to sleep until a week ago. He prefers to be put in his crib to sleep in his own, rarely woke at night but if he did, he would roll around and back to sleep on his own. And if he woke up early, he would play around until we came in. And right before this, he didn’t want to come out of his crib right away in the morning. But now he is fighting bedtime, it has gotten to 4-5 hours or leaving him in crib, sitting next to crib, intervals of checking in and now holding until sleep but the second he is placed in crib he stands and starts screaming. No matter how tired he is, he stands and cries. He’s starts to dose off while standing and screams as soon as he realizes it. We’ve let him CIO up to 3.5 hours. I feel like he’s so determined that sleep training will not even work at this point. This 18 month regression is breaking my husband and I. We both work full time, he works days, I work nights, and no one in the house has slept in a week. Please help!!!

    • Alyssa Taft

      Hello Patricia,

      Regressions can be brutal! Regressions are a normal part of brain development, but it can cause sleep disruptions for a couple weeks or so. As a mom of two toddlers, I can completely empathize with what you are going through!

      I would be happy to chat with you 1-1 to see if any schedule adjustments or environmental shifts can help your little guy. I offer 45 minute private consultations on Zoom and we can see if some changes can help your son get back on track! Here is the link if you want to check out the details!

      Alyssa, BSMS Support Team

  2. Jasmin

    Hi Alyssa!

    Your website has been helpful and comforting for a tired mama! 🙂 would love love love some advice though!

    I have a 17 month old. We haven’t officially sleep trained her but she has been doing fairly well sleeping with a pacifier on her own when placed in the crib awake. However, starting last week, she has been sick so I have held her for naps consecutively for ~4-5 days. Bedtime remains the same by placing in crib with a pacifier. She has straight out refused to take any day time naps. (Will only nap if held) – we now try to avoid holding her if possibly unless we are out, but she will take ZERO naps otherwise. She will cry and wail in the crib however long she is left there (we try to let her CIO x45min-1.5hrs, but I struggle to let her cry past the 1.5-2hr mark). Bedtime has still been successful at placing her in the crib but more frequent wakings throughout the night.

    I can’t tell if it’s the 18 month regression, being sick, transitioning from 2 to 1 nap, or if it’s because I held her for a few days in a row which led to a bad habit I am trying to now undo. (Or a combo of something above). I am wondering if I should continue to let her forego all daytime naps and make bedtime earlier each night without holding her to sleep or would that affect her negatively. It’s been 3 days she’s gone without any naps at all.

    I’d appreciate any advice or suggestions you may have!

    Thank you for your time!!

    • Artemis

      Hello, Jasmin!

      So sorry to hear your 17 month old hasn’t been napping, yikes!

      I think we need some official sleep training ASAP to get your little one sleeping amazingly and to avoid sleep deprivation. Please join us here:

      Email us if you have any questions, otherwise just sign up right away and we’ll work on it togther.

      Kind regards,
      Artemis, BSMS Support Team

  3. Padma


    Thank you for the info about the 18th month old sleep regression. My son will be 18 months old in 3 days, and I am certain we are in the midst of this regression now, which started about 5 days ago.

    We have followed all your tips and survived the previous regressions, nap transitions and daycare routines. Our son in an independent sleeper: usual routine is 7.30pm – 7.15am for night sleep and 12.30pm – 2.30pm afternoon sleep.

    Since Friday we have noticed the following:
    1. Waking up at 5.30am and crying, sitting up in crib wailing/whimpering (we do allow him to sleep with his lovey)
    2. On some days shorter nap times
    3. Last night there was a night waking at 12.30am. We allowed him to CIO for 45 mins as he was sitting up in his crib crying. We did a silent re-position on his back and gave him his lovey but he was more upset by knowing we were around and cried more.

    Looking for some advice:
    1. This is the regression? (no signs of being sick or any other concerns)
    2. We live in an apartment, and we know that for our son CIO is the only sleep training method which is effective. However, crying in the middle of the night at 12.30am is disruptive to our neighbors and so is a 5.30am wake-up. What should we do at these times? Do we just let him cry it out and trust he should settle back in? At 5.30am, we have avoided pulling him into our bed, but this has been so tough because he is ready to start his day and keeps talking, but I know he will be exhausted at daycare if he doesn’t stay in his cool, dark room until 7am.

    Any tips or suggestions for navigating a night waking or early morning would be so appreciated.

    • Becca Fuentes

      Hi Padma,
      Sounds like you are doing wonderfully! You have a very good grasp of what is going on. I do believe this is a sleep regression. Generally a sleep regression will resolve in a week or two. If CIO is what works for your kiddo then stick with that. If you are interested in trying any other methods you can check out our sleep training program: 21 Days to Peace and Quiet:

      Otherwise, I would stick with what you are doing since going to him seems to upset him more. Even though it upsets him more at the time, sometimes checking in and letting him know you are there, he is safe and giving him some pats on the back and comfort can help him decrease the length of his cry time. This is different for all kiddos but if you feel like it might help, try a little check in and then pop back out of the room and see if it helps him to settle. Otherwise you probably just need to wait this out, utilize the strategies in the article, and be consistent with how you have sleep trained him in the past. Maybe bring your neighbors some pie. haha! Seriously though, letting your neighbors know what you are going through and that the experts you spoke to said that it would be over in a week or so might help them to be more understanding. You could even provide a little noise canceling gift: some ear plugs and chocolate and a sleep mask or something like that just to show them that you understand it is not ideal but you hope for their understanding. A white noise machine on your side of the wall might also help decrease the noise they are hearing. Hope this helps and good luck! You will get through this! Stay consistent and this will pass!

      Here are a few additional articles and videos that might help:

      Becca, BSMS Support Team

  4. Andrea Legarda

    I took this course already and he has been sleeping well. He is 16 months old, barely wants to nap in the day. Max nap time is 1hr 30 min. He is now screaming when I put him to bed at night and wont sleep unless I hold him. He kicks, screams, jumps, I dont know what to do helps

    • Alyssa Taft

      Hi Andrea!

      We would love to help you get back on track! Please go ahead and email us at and share with me your LO’s daily schedule so we can see what is going on.

      Alyssa, BSMS Support Team

  5. Lydia

    Hi, my daughter has started waking at 5/5.30am every morning. I leave her and try to try and get her to go back to sleep. She is 19months and has one nap in the afternoon 1.30-3.30pm. As she is waking so early by 9am she is very grumpy and tired!

    • Alyssa Taft

      Hello, I would try to move up your LO’s naps. Toddlers at this age can handle around 5 hours of awake time in the morning. So try a schedule like this:


      Give it a solid 1-2 weeks to see how your LO adjusts and follow the clock 🙂

      Alyssa, BSMS Support Team

  6. Julie Pulling

    I have twins. We took their pacifiers away a little over two weeks ago. Also tried going to the one nap a day at that time. Baby 1 is crying every time we put her down fpr naps amd at night time. I’m not sure if it’s 18 month sleep regression, not having the pacifier or teething. Should we go back to the two nap a day for now?

    • Alyssa Taft

      Hello Julie! It sounds like the 18 month sleep regression. I would just continue with your 1 nap, but move bedtime earlier if they don’t nap well! Alyssa, BSMS Support Team

  7. Madison Stockton

    If 18 1/2 month old is only fighting bedtime not nap would you put in crib a little earlier like you said for nap?
    Do you still suggest waiting five minutes and going back in and padding and then going out again?

    • Alyssa Taft


      I would leave nap time the same and just focus on putting him down a little earlier for bedtime. If he is just rolling around and not sleeping, I would give him space to settle. I would only go in to his room if he is crying continuously!

      Alyssa, BSMS Support Team


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