Short Nap Struggles and How You Can Help

naps - a close up of a baby on their side looking at the camera - laying on a white blanket

Naps are hard !  You are not alone, they can be a struggle for little ones as well as for parents.  Questions around short naps and how to fix them are one of the most common questions I get asked.  Often times we just get into a pattern of short naps and we think this is just how your little one sleeps.  I’m here to tell you that ALL babies are capable of longer naps and there are some key things you can do to help things along.  The first thing to remember however is that daytime sleep is harder, it takes more work and consistency. Patience through this process to support your little one to learn this new skill is EVERYTHING !

Daytime sleep is harder because your little one’s sleep drive is weaker during the day.  As well there are more things that can affect daytime sleep, including daylight and sounds from their sleep environment. A typical sleep cycle for little ones is around 30-45 mins so often when we see these short naps it means that your little one is not yet transitioning sleep cycles.  There are a few reasons this can be happening and I am here to help you learn more to get that daytime sleep on track.  Here are some of the most important factors to consider :

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Location, Location, Location

While we often can’t control how long your little one sleeps, we can provide them with that optimal sleep environment to encourage longer more restorative sleep. As I shared noise, light, motion and timing all play critical roles in how your little one sleeps.  The ideal sleeping environment is one that provides stationary sleep in a crib/bassinet and in a room that is as dark as possible so we are limiting light and producing that melatonin that helps your little one settle to sleep.  As well we want to limit any stimulation so no toys/noise/lights in the crib or room and using some type of white noise to block out those outside sounds.  Providing this environment makes it more likely that your little one will settle into a deeper more restorative sleep.

Schedule Naps & Nights and Be Consistent

Once your little ones are 16-18 weeks of age we recommend getting them on a set clock based schedule with set nap times that are appropriate for their age.  Having this set schedule of sleep helps to sync your little one’s internal clock and make it more likely that they will have longer more restorative sleeps at these set times. This won’t happen overnight but with consistently offering sleep at these set times you will see baby settle quicker and sleep longer.

Be Patient and Extend that Sleep  

Daytime sleep takes a lot longer to come together, patience and consistency here is everything. Providing that optimal sleep environment and those set sleep times are the starting point and then slowly extending the time we are leaving your little one to resettle for naps is the next step.  Often when your little one wakes from their nap we rush in and get them up thinking naptime is over.  Try something different, be confident your little one can resettle and give them the opportunity.  This may initially be leaving them 5-10 mins once they wake and then slowly extending this until we are atleast leaving them for 30-45 mins to see if they will resettle and connect those sleep cycles.  This won’t happen overnight but the more opportunity they have to practice it the better it will get !

Again we can’t control how long baby sleeps but we can provide that most optimal environment and time and then support them with that skill of lengthening and extending their naps.  Naps are a struggle but being confident in your little one’s sleep and understanding why that sleep is so important for their development and mood is critical.  Stick to that schedule, offer that predictable sleep environment and work towards extending that sleep.

Have more questions ? Join me at one of my upcoming free sleep clinics or use the link here to schedule your free 15 min consultation today !

Sleep Consultant Jolan Holmes
Sleep Consultant Jolan Holmes
Jolan Holmes, B.A., E.C.E, R.C.C. and Certified Sleep Consultant lives in Anmore, BC with her husband and two beautiful boys. She has over 20 years experience supporting families and children with developmental, behavioural and mental health needs, as well as working specifically with little ones with sensory processing challenges and Autism. Jolan was certified as a Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute and trained as a Good Night Sleep Educator.

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