We’ve had a number of enquiries from parents who are worried LO’s naps are too short. Typically these LO’s will wake after 30 – 50 minutes of sleep which is the length of the first sleep cycle.
The key question to ask is “Does my LO wake happily from a nap?”
If the answer is “Yes” and LO is sleeping well at night, it may be LO is getting all the sleep he/she needs – contrary to what the books say!
However, if LO wakes crying, grumbling and grizzly it’s likely he/she hasn’t had enough sleep. Another tell tale sign of too short naps is if LO becomes more cranky, clumsy, lacks concentration or is more prone to temper tantrums towards the end of the day.
Here is a check list for you with some of the reasons (and solutions) LOs wake too early from naps:
- The most common cause is difficulty is transitioning from light to deep sleep. LO’s may wake when they realise that they are alone, are in a different place from where they fell to sleep such as after being rocked to sleep in parent’s arms or have lost their “prop” such as a dummy or a cuddly.
Solution; Remember to put LO to sleep “drowsy but awake”. This is impossible with small babies who tend to fall asleep on the bottle/breast. BUT it’s a good idea to adopt this mantra when a baby reaches 10 – 12 weeks of age.
Try re-settling your baby as soon as you see them squirming to waken. In small babies try applying a little pressure with the palm of you hand on to their chest or tummy OR stroking your baby’s head. in older LO’s you can try the same or simply leave them for 10 minutes to see if they will re-settle themselves!
LO is overtired! Remember the importance of watching for LO’s sleepy cues before they get overtired? Overtired LO’s will fight sleep, cry, protest and likely have emotional melt down when put down for sleep.
Solution: Always start wind down time AS SOON AS YOU SEE FIRST SIGNS OF LO’s SLEEPY CUES!
If your LO is excited by the world and has difficulty “switching off” try taking them into a darkened room for 10 – 20 minutes to calm and relax them.
- LO is overstimulated. Remember that everything is stimulating to your LO. The world is full of strange new sights and sounds which we take for granted.
Solution; Again we would say a mini wind down routine in a darkened room for 10 – 20 minutes is the best way for baby to switch off. Small babies may benefit from a little rocking while older babies (over 3 – 4 months) may settle with being held firmly in your arms. Remember to keep eye contact to a minimum as your face/eye contact will also overstimulate.
- LO has learned something new such as rolling, sitting, pulling to stand and wants to practice this even at the expense of his naps.
Solution; When LO learns to sit or stand try and teach them to lie down on their own during wake time. Make this a fun game! If LO keeps pulling to stand don’t repeatedly place LO on his/her back again – that will cause great excitement and be very trying for you! Try putting your hands through the cot bars and patting the mattress to encourage LO to sit then lie down on his own. This skill usually takes a couple of weeks to learn.
- LO has been out of routine. Boy – it can only take one day out of routine and LO’s need re-teaching the routine again. The good news is that if you have established a routine LO’s will very quickly fall back into it.
Solution: Persevere with re-teaching!
- LO’s nap routine is in a transitional stage. How do we know if LO is giving up naps?
Solution; If LO repeatedly fights naps for 2 – 3 days and is at the right stage to drop a nap then it’s time to forget that nap! However, you may well find that LO needs a nap at this time every second or third day for a couple of weeks while they adjust so – BE GUIDED BY THEIR SLEEPY CUES.
Remember LO may well need his/her next nap earlier or need bed time brought forward a little.
- LO has had too little awake time.
Solution; Watch out for sleep cues! If LO repeatedly fights naps try lengthening awake time. Even a 15 minute awake slot can make all the difference.
- Remember a daily dose of light is really important for all of us to set the circadian rhythm. Very often mums will tell us LO’s won’t nap if they’ve been stuck inside all day. This is particularly relevant for LO’s over a year.
Solution; A daily dose of natural light, such as a trip to the park/shops/friends preferably in the morning.
- LO is ill or teething. Illnesses – particularly a virus is often harboured the body for several days before there are any outward signs.
Solution; Take LO’s temperature and look for other signs such as rashes or snuffles – even a small snuffle will make LO feel insecure and need extra TLC.
- Inconsistent routines. Very often, older LO’s stop showing sleepy cues. They are so wrapped up in play they finally dissolve in to tired tears. By then it’s too late and they will fight sleep!
Solution: Okay – we know routines can be very boring for us BUT LO’s thrive on them. If LO knows that he/she has a nap in his cot after breakfast/ lunch every day they will expect it! BE CONSISTENT!
- Overall sleep pattern particularly with small babies. Parents are often surprised when we add up LO’s night and day sleep. It’s often a lot more than they gave their LOs credit for!
Solution; Keep a sleep log for 3 days and total up the average amount of sleep LO is having. Then check it through with average amount of sleep needs for LO’s age. However – it’s LO’s mood and presentation that will tell parent’s if LO isn’t having enough sleep!
If naps are elusive for a few days in a previously good napper – there is probably a good reason for this. The key thing for parents is to persevere in spending a few days re-teaching good habits and not to panic!
Hope this helps.
Sleep tight – Deborah & Maggie