When is it time to drop that afternoon nap?

The afternoon nap. What a glorious time of day. Of course, we love our babies…but we also really love nap time.  What can you do during naptime? The possibilities are endless! Take a nap yourself (my personal favorite option), read, catch up on your favorite show, drink some yummy coffee, pick up the house (but only if this makes you happy…otherwise please save it for when the kids are awake!), catch up on work, spend time with your other kids, etc. 

However, at some (very sad) point, that afternoon nap starts to cause problems.  What once was a time of peaceful bliss starts turning into…not peaceful bliss.  


  1. Do not panic.  Maybe it’s just an off day.
  2. Take a look at the schedule. One-nap-a-day toddlers need about 5.5 hours of wake time between waking up in the morning and nap time.  This means a kiddo who wakes up at 6:30 should be going down for nap around noon. 
  3. Check activity level. It’s hard to sleep if you’ve been inside sitting all day.  Big Play = Better sleep.
  4. Take a look at the nap routine.  Be sure your kiddo is going straight to nap from lunch.  If you allow playtime after lunch it can be very hard to stop that play to go take a nap. Eat lunch and then immediately start your nap routine (diaper/potty, book, song, into bed). 
  5. Start logging your toddler’s sleep to keep track of how much they are actually getting. 

How much sleep does your kiddo need?

Kids between the ages of 2 and 3 need 12-14 hours of total sleep in a 24-hour period.  Kids 3+ years need 11-13 hours of total sleep in a 24-hour period.  Why is this important? We can’t expect a 3 year old to sleep 12 hours a night AND still take a long afternoon nap.  There just isn’t that much sleep pressure anymore. You may need to adjust bedtime expectations. 

How do you know that the afternoon nap is causing problems?

  1. It takes a long time for your child to fall asleep.
  2. Your child falls asleep just fine for nap, but bedtime turns into a fight.

When is it time to make a change?

  1. It can be time to make nap changes as young as 2.5, though 3+ years is more typical.
  2. If the nap problems have been going on 80% of the time for a minimum of 2 weeks, then you know it’s time to make a change. It is common for toddlers to start fighting their nap at 2 years old….but hold tight! Stick to your routine and stay the course; we need to see if this is just a temporary regression or a permanent problem.  

Now you know that the afternoon nap is the culprit of some issues in your house.  This does NOT mean you automatically need to just stop the nap.  There are 4 options for adjustments you can make.

4 Options:

  1. Shorten Nap (max 45 minutes)
  2. Move Bedtime later (6 hours after waking from nap)
  3. Shorten Nap AND move bedtime later 
  4. Eliminate the Nap

If you eliminate the nap, be prepared for the full adjustment to take 4-6 weeks.  It can take your child’s body that long to adjust to being awake all day. In the meantime, offer a quiet time during the day to help their brain/body rest and bring bedtime earlier (approximately 12 hours from their morning wakeup time).  

What about daycare?

Daycare is tricky.  It’s very common to see 4 and 5-year-olds still having to nap because of state regulations.  The best thing you can do is talk to them.  See if daycare can offer a quiet activity instead of a nap or ask them to shorten the nap. If this isn’t possible, then you’re just going to have to deal with it. Be sure your kiddo is getting lots of outside, active play between nap and bedtime.  You’ll also need to move bedtime later, at least 6 hours after waking from nap. This may mean bedtime is as late as 9 pm, but that’s ok for the time being.

Still need some help? If you’re dealing with nap or bedtime problems and just don’t know where to go from here- that’s what I’m here for.  Book your free 15-minute call to see how I can come along with your family to make some much-needed sleep changes.  


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