Why Does My Child Take Short Naps?

This is a very common question, why does my baby take short naps? Depending on the age of your child there can be many reasons why your child isn’t sleeping as you would like them to for naps.

Newborns’ sleep cycles are very short, about 30-45 minutes. At 6-weeks old the sleep cycles start to extend from 45-minutes to 1.5 hours as they start to consolidate their sleep cycles. Meaning they go through more than one cycle. What does a sleep cycle mean? You can read all about that here.

All human beings have sleep cycles that rotate throughout the duration of our sleep. Adults have 4 stages and newborns start with 2 stages (deep and REM). Read the blog linked above for more information. In between sleep cycles, it is natural for us to slightly wake up. As adults we get so good at just turning over and going back to sleep we don’t even notice or remember this happening. A baby is born to sleep, but independent sleep is a learned skill, believe it or not.

Why does my child take short naps? Well, when your baby wakes up at the 30-minute to 1 hour mark, it is the end of their sleep cycle. They slightly wake and realize you aren’t there, or something is different from when they fell asleep, and they don’t have the skills to put themselves back to sleep yet.

Sleep Begets Sleep

An important factor is sleep begets sleep. What does this mean? Basically how your child’s sleep is at night affects how they sleep during the day. And how your child sleeps during the day affects how they will sleep at night. It goes hand and hand!

why does my child take short naps?

If your baby isn’t napping well during the day, they are most likely overtired and fatigued at bedtime and will have a much harder time falling asleep. There are other problems with fatigue. When a child is overtired, not only are they fussy, agitated and hard to get to sleep but they also get less quality sleep. Their sleep becomes fragmented instead of restorative consolidated sleep. This sets you up for a vicious cycle. They will wake up tired, and in turn nap poorly, be tired at bedtime again, and the pattern continues.

Good News On Naps

If you are struggling right now with naps, there are solutions! Hang in there mama!

Newborns: Consolidated sleep at night will come first before longer naps.

3 things you can do:

  1. Start the Feed, activity, sleep routine. 

This will disassociate eating with sleeping and start to give little windows of time for the baby to develop self-soothing strategies. Check out the blog here.

  1. Focus on a bedtime routine and wake up time at the same time each day.

Helping your child distinguish night from day and develop their biological clock will help them get to consolidated sleep. 

  1. Try to preserve the short naps.

If you hear your child stirring at the 30-45 minute mark you can either go right in and try to soothe them back to sleep, or wait a couple minutes and see if they can do it themselves.

Infants: Catching a child in their sleep window goes a long way when trying to get them down for a nap. Knowing wake times is super important and you can find them here.

3 things you can try:

  1. Check your child’s age and how long they can tolerate being awake. Take into consideration stimulation, and activities that might tire them out quicker. 
  2. Watch for signs of sleepiness. 

Staring off, quiet, yawning, tired eyes, red eyebrows. Try to catch them before they are fussy, or agitated. 

  1. Have a naptime routine. 

It can be 10-minutes long (shorter than bedtime), but long enough to give your child the cue that it is time for rest. During the day we do not have melatonin on our side, so the child really needs a cue for their body to understand rest time. Keep naps at the same time every single day to also help with the body cues for your little one.

Toddlers: Toddlers go through many tough stages where they transition from two naps, to one nap or from one nap to no nap.

This can be really hard on parents, and you can definitely have a cranky little one on your hands. How do I know if they should transition naps?

  1. If you are having a hard time with one nap and they are resisting but sleep great at the second nap, this could be a sign that they only need one nap. Give it 2-weeks to see if it continues. If you are still having issues at the 2-week mark go to one nap. 
  2. When going from two down to one naps, have the one nap be around 12-12:30pm. Be prepared for your child to still be tired in the morning (where they used to nap). It will take the body a couple of weeks to adjust to this schedule. 
  3. Stay consistent. If it doesn’t go well the first couple of days, don’t be afraid to move bedtime earlier, and you can also try to preserve the nap by going for a car or stroller ride (if the child wakes after an hour). Remember we do not want an overtired child.

Check your facts!

With any age child, check to see how many hours they should be sleeping within 24 hours. Track how many hours they are getting at night and what that leaves for daytime sleep. This will give you tons of insight if they need longer naps, one or two naps, or are they getting plenty of sleep at night and at the age where they might not need naps anymore.

Never compare children. Each child is uniquely different!! This is why I have a job. One method that worked for one family might not work for your family, and that is why I customize each sleep plan to the child’s needs, personality, and who you are as a family unit.

Need help with naps? Nap transitions, or consolidated sleep with no nighttime wake ups? Contact us today for your free connect call! 

Do you just have questions and want to DIY? Book an “Ask me anything call”! Find all of our programs here. Stay tuned for the next blog which will be all about wake windows and recommended hours of sleep.


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