I also have a 2.5 yr old and the exhaustion makes for really hard days and i find my patience thin... She is acting out because i have been so snappy which makes the days exhausting too.
I don't know what to do to help him AND I sleep better... Any advice???
Hey--my son, same age, is like this too and so was my daughter. But here is what I have discovered (and wish I knew it earlier with my daughter): they come into a light sleep every 45-50m minutes, and will often cry out (with my daughter, it would often manifest as a sudden bloodcurdling scream--I could watch her do it, and she wouldn't really be awake.) Then (unless they are overtired, which makes them hard to settle) they will actually just fuss for a minute or two and return to sleep. It's disruptive for them until they figure out how to resettle without fussing, but it is not necessarily a cry for nursing or comforting...I think they are just disconcerted by coming into their light sleep and need to get back to deep sleep.
I found that responding actually prolonged things and just made them angry and hard to resettle even with nursing sometimes. (If they are overtired it is another matter, then they might not be able to resettle on their own.)
The other thing is, even 30 sec. can seem like an eternity in the middle of the night and it is hard not to leap to baby for a nursing session immediately when you hear them. But try to wake up enough to give him a 1-3 minutes by the clock to go back into his next sleep cycle.
If he is really hungry of course that is another matter, of course. But I found this realization very helpful.