Is My Child Ready to Drop a Nap?

Is my child ready to drop a nap? Here are some signs to look for and tips on how to test if dropping a nap is the right decision. As children grow they need less sleep during the day and a large chunk of quality sleep at night. Just because they are a certain age though doesn’t mean they should be sleeping 2 or 3 times each day. Check out your child’s wake windows by age here to get an idea of where they should be at. Each child is unique in their sleep needs and it also depends on the quality of the sleep they are getting, and how active they are. There are some common sleep disruptors that need to be factored in and If you think your child is too young to drop a nap, read all about short naps and how to get rid of them. As a sleep consultant I like to look at behavior over age of the child. What is your child’s behavior telling you?

Signs a child is ready to drop a nap.

  1. They sleep well at one nap but have trouble going down for the second nap. 
  2. Children taking one afternoon nap have trouble falling asleep at night. 
  3. Infants that have been taking a catnap(3rd nap) are having trouble falling asleep at night.
  • If any of these scenarios continue to happen for two weeks, you can try to drop the nap. Kids go through ups and downs with their sleep so it is very important to wait two weeks and see if the behavior stays consistent. Otherwise you will have a very overtired cranky child on your hands.
  • Before dropping a nap consider slight changes in the timing of the nap(s). For example if your child naps at 9am and 2pm. Consider moving the morning nap earlier by 30 minutes and the afternoon nap to 1pm. Depending on the child, if they sleep too late into the afternoon the sleep pressure will not be strong enough by bedtime. 
  • You can also do this with one nap. The ideal nap time when a child takes one nap is 12:30 or 1pm.

How to drop a nap:

When dropping a nap it is always going to be a push at first. Stretching the time gradually to eventually get to your desired nap(s). Your child will still seem tired at their previous nap time because their biological clock still thinks they should sleep then, even if it is not needed anymore. Beware this will take a couple weeks to fully adjust, and the child to reorganize their sleep to the new nap schedule and nighttime sleep.

3 to 2:

Push the morning and afternoon nap forward by a  half an hour. Get rid of the catnap. This will be a stretch as I said above, especially around dinner time. Give you child time to adjust. If they normally nap at 830am move it to 9am. If they nap at 12:30 or 1pm move it to 1pm or 1:30. This is temporary until they reorganize their sleep. Keeping it within a half an hour will not mess with their biological clock.

2 to 1:

Move the afternoon nap earlier. That one nap should ideally be around 12:30pm or 1pm. If you need to move it even earlier do so! While your child adjusts, the morning is going to seem difficult for them, and they will be sleepy. The goal is to take a nice long nap around lunchtime.

1 to 0:

Cold turkey. Just get rid of the nap. There will be some days where your child will fall asleep in the car, or need a nap after an active or stimulating morning. That is fine as long as it does not affect their nighttime sleep. A quiet time is recommended instead of sleeping. Looking at books, listening to an audio book, coloring, doing quiet crafts are all a welcomed break from the busy, stimulating world around them. This quiet time will help transition them from their one nap to no nap, and also give you a welcomed break.

 Note: Technology is not a break. It is stimulating for the brain. While sometimes this is ok for a child to sit quietly and watch a TV or Tablet, I do not recommend this everyday. You will notice a behavior difference in the child from having a quiet time with and without technology. Find more information in “What will help my child sleep?”.

Quiet Time for everyone.

As your baby grows, evolves, and changes to eventually not needing the nap I do still recommend a quiet time. Before school age, this can be an hour of quiet play or or looking through books. Listening to an audio book and coloring. Anything to give the child a much needed break from stimulation, and give you as a parent a break from parenting and life. If your child is school age, after school can be 15-20 minutes of quiet reading, or play. Children and adults are asked to be “on” all day long, following instructions, learning new things and practicing them. Giving their brains a short break to recharge is great practice to help them slow down before you move on to the activities you have planned the rest of the day. It is a win-win for the whole family!

Not sure about napping or dropping a nap?

If you are unsure of what is going on with your child’s sleep, reach out to us or check out all of the Pediatric Sleep Programs we offer. There is always a solution! Check out our podcast Empowerhood for weekly free resources and inspiring stories of Motherhood’s challenges.

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