Sleep problems in toddler are more common than you would imagine. It is not unusual for a perfect little sleeper, to become a less good sleeper from 12 months onwards. Of course that doesn’t always happen, but it can! There are many factors that affect sleeps, like teething and sickness, travel, moving home, change in caregivers and developmental stages. Another factor to keep in mind is the timing of sleep; this element can wreak havoc on your child’s sleep. As you know already, your child will have gone through many changes within the first year of life and many more to come as well. One of those changes is the progression of the day time sleep from the original 4-5 day time sleeps to when they are ready for just one nap. This generally happens sometime between the ages of 15-18 months. As with all things where sleep is concerned, it can happen earlier, but generally the adjustment is smoother if your child is that little bit older.
A rule of thumb – whether you think your child might be ready would be if you think they can survive all morning without a sleep or if they are generally tired by 10am. If you answered this question with “tired by 10”, then your child probably still needs two naps.
Unfortunately there can often be a power-play between the naps; with the first nap of the day trying to over-power and remove the need of the second nap by being too long and leaving no room for a second day sleep. This can have the affect of creating a large wakeful period before bedtime that increases the likelihood of night time waking.
When your toddler is ready for one nap please be mindful of the following:
- The ideal time for one day sleep from 15 months onwards is 1230-1pm for perhaps 2hours+
- If your child is too tired to last until this time then provide a shortened first nap limited to 45m and then the second nap about 3 hours later. Continue with this as long as it works
- If you find your child is in between, and can last until 1130am but not until 1230pm then implement this initially and then really quickly move the nap by 15 minutes every 2 days until it starts closer to 1230-1pm
- Be conscious that a wake period exceeding 5 hours before bedtime can cause night time waking which is why the later nap is important
- The wake period from morning to the nap is less significant so put the emphasis on the second part of the day
- Avoid naps after 3.30pm so that you don’t cause a resistance to sleep at bedtime
- Keep in mind that bedtime is likely to be somewhere between 7-8pm to reduce the risk of night waking
- Most children will nap in the day until 3 years +. You will know when your child is ready to not nap anymore when they miss their nap and don’t have a personality transplant later in the day. If this happens, keep providing, or at least offering a nap for now.