Is Your Toddler in the “One Nap Isn’t Enough but Two Naps is Too Much” Phase?

| Pregnancy |

Is Your Toddler in the “One Nap Isn’t Enough but Two Naps is Too Much” Phase?

If so, they may need some help transitioning from two naps to one.

Most children are ready for the transition sometime between 15 and 18 months of age.

Every child is different, of course – some 13 and 14 month old children no longer need their morning snooze, but there are also many toddlers that continue to benefit from two naps a day until their 2nd birthday. Don’t rush the transition simply because you think your child “should” be ready or because it’s convenient – watch your child, not the calendar. Dropping the morning nap before your child is truly ready can easily disrupt night sleep and result in a crabby, sleep deprived child. (Many day care centers drop the morning nap as soon as a child moves from the baby room to the toddler room – typically around their first birthday.  If this is the case with your child, try working with caregivers to see if they’re willing to bring your child back to the baby room for the morning nap.)

So how do you know when the time is really right?

Look for an obvious change in your child’s nap patterns.

Common patterns include taking longer and longer to fall asleep for one or both naps, or waking up from one or both naps earlier and earlier. Some children will continue to nap easily in the morning but will refuse the afternoon nap, or visa versa. You may also notice that your child can happily skip a nap and be content and alert until the next scheduled sleep. Don’t assume that a few days of bumpy naps signals the need for a major change – look for a pattern that persists for a few weeks. Consider tweaking the timing of naps first to smooth out minor napping bumps. (Shortening the morning nap, for example, can often make the afternoon nap easier to achieve.) But if patterns persist in spite of those minor tweaks then it’s time for a major shift in the nap schedule.

Signs that your child is ready to transition from two naps to one:

Your child is getting at least 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night.

Your child is taking longer and longer to fall asleep for the morning or the afternoon nap.

Your child’s morning or afternoon nap is getting shorter and shorter.

Your child takes one good nap but refuses the other nap.

Your child is able to skip a nap and remain alert and happy until the next nap, or until bedtime.

How to help your child with the transition:

Once it’s clear that your child is ready, you may decide to just go with the flow and follow your child’s sleepy cues – in other words, watch for cues and put your child down for a nap whenever they appear to be tired. For children that have clear signs of sleepiness, this can work well.

If taking a relaxed attitude isn’t your style, or if you have a child that is an expert in hiding their sleepy cues, you may want to be more pro-active. In that case, you can implement the following strategy to move towards a one nap schedule:

- Move the morning nap later in increments.

Start with 10 or 15 minute increments if your child is sensitive, or 30 minute increments if they’re more flexible. The ultimate goal is to move the morning nap to 12:30 pm or 1:00 pm over the course of 7 to 10 days.

- Keep your child active and engaged until 30 minutes before the new nap time. 

Then do your typical wind down activities in preparation for sleep.

- Remember that this will be the only nap of the day,

so if it’s on the short side, encourage your child to go back to sleep. Toddlers typically need approximately 2 hours of daytime sleep in addition to their 11.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night to be considered well rested.

- Keep in mind that an earlier bedtime may be necessary 

while your child makes the adjustment. Watch your child carefully for sleepy cues and don’t be afraid to push bedtime back by 30 or even 60 minutes to compensate for the new nap schedule.

- Be open to an occasional two-nap day. 

Even one nap a day children need an additional nap every now and then. Remember that good naps mean good nights!

Sweet Dreams!

Written by Alison Bevan

Alison Bevan is a Baby and Child Sleep Consultant that has helped thousands of families get a good night’s sleep. She is a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach SM, founder of Sleepytime Coach and the Pediatric Sleep Consultant at The Center For Advanced Pediatrics, one of the largest and most comprehensive pediatric practices in the tri-state area. She is also a mother that has lived through the challenges of having a child with sleep problems.