Solving Naptime Problems

Elizabeth Pantley sleepless_baby

Naps are important for your child’s health and growth. A nap refreshes a child so that she can maintain her energy for the rest of the day. Studies show that children who nap are more adaptable, have longer attention spans, and are less fussy than those who don’t nap.

Does your child need a nap?

Here are signs that your child would benefit from a nap:

  1. Wakes up happy, but gets cranky later
  2. Has more patience early in the day
  3. Cries more easily in the evening
  4. Has an afternoon slump then gets a second wind
  5. Has temper tantrums during the bedtime routine
  6. Falls asleep in the car or when watching TV

How much naptime does your child need?

Children differ in their sleep needs – but this chart applies to most. Even if your child’s sleep hours add up to the right total, his behavior tells you more than any chart could. When in doubt try for a nap, since even quiet time can help a child feel refreshed.

Age Number of Naps Naptime Hours Night Sleep Hours* Total Sleep Time
Newborn Newborns sleep 16-18 hours daily, spread over 6-7 sleep periods
3 Months 3 5-6 10-11 5
6 Months 2 3-4 10-11 15
9 Months 2 2½-4 11-12 14
12 Months 1-2 2-3 11½-12 13½-14
18 Months 1-2 2-3 11¼-12 13-14
2 Years 1 1-2½ 11-12 13-13½
3-4 Years 0-1 0-1½ 11-11½ 11-13
5-7 Years 0-1 0-1 11 11-12
*These averages don’t signify unbroken stretches of sleep since night waking is normal

Timing and length of naps

Timing of naps is important. A late nap will prevent your child from being tired at bedtime. Generally, the best nap times are:

Two naps: midmorning (9:00 – 11:00) and early afternoon (12:00 – 2:30) One nap: early afternoon (12:00 – 2:30); after lunch

If your child tends towards short naps, don’t assume it’s all she needs. Try these tips for better naps:

  1. Provide a healthy lunch or snack before nap.
  2. Keep the room dark.
  3. Play lullabies or white noise during the nap.
  4. Dress her in comfortable clothes.
  5. Be sure that discomfort (teething, allergies, etc.) isn’t preventing sleep.

Watch for signs of tiredness

Tired children fall asleep easily. If you miss the signals they become overtired and are unable to sleep. Your child may show one or more of these signs that tell you he is tired and ready to nap:

  1. losing interest in playtime
  2. becoming whiny or fussy
  3. losing patience
  4. having tantrums
  5. rubbing eyes or yawning
  6. caressing a lovey or blanket
  7. asking for a pacifier, bottle or to nurse

The nap routine

Once you’ve created a schedule that works with your child’s periods of tiredness, follow a simple but specific nap routine. Your child will be comfortable with a pattern to his day. He may predict when naptime approaches and willingly cooperate with you.

Nap routines change

Children’s sleep needs change over time. The routine that you set up today won’t be the same one you’re using a year from now. Be adaptable!

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley (McGraw-Hill, 2002, 2005)

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