Some children sleep too little during the day, some too much, and some just sleep at the wrong time. But, by far and away, the most distressing of these is napping too little.

Why Do Babies Fight Sleep?

Your little child may struggle so much with naps that his room starts to feel to you like a football pitch on derby day. The main reasons your toddler may try to wriggle out of his nap are:

  • He is overtired.
  • He is distracted and overstimulated (by noise, light, the telly, roughhousing, caffeine, or medications).

Here is a quick look at each problem and how to solve it.

1. Overtired But Cannot Sleep

The ultimate sign of whether your toddler is napping enough is how tired she gets during the day. Is she: Falling asleep in the car or tube? Slumping over well before naptime arrives? Cranky and bleary-eyed at dinnertime?

If so, try putting her down 20 minutes earlier for the nap. Many children just do better if they are put down after 2 or 3 hours of playtime even if they do not seem sleepy.

Think of this like eating lunch before you are really hungry. Often when you sit down to eat, you realize, “Hmm…I did not know it, but I guess I am hungry!” Similarly, anticipating your toddler’s need for sleep can keep her a happy napper.

2. Overstimulated Toddler Will Not Sleep

“What? You want me to nap, with all this excitement?”

Sometimes, even dedicated nappers get too overstimulated to sleep. If your sweetie just played “tickle my tummy” with her dad or had a shot of caffeine from your breast milk (or a piece of chocolate), she may have a hard time noticing that she is tuckered out.

And your swashbuckling little Jack Sparrow impersonator may fight napping because he is having so much fun exploring…he does not want to miss a thing.

Getting Your Toddler to Nap

Enjoy some fun quiet play with your child in his bedroom a couple of times a day. (Some children resist going into their rooms because this means they will have to stop playing and go to sleep.) That way, he will not only associate his room with “un-fun” naps.

Thirty minutes before naptime, engage in some quiet play and put on soft white noise in the background as a subconscious cue that sleep time is coming.

Then, for the nap, darken the room—as well as you can—and crank up a stronger, rough rumbly white noise—if your house is active, you may even need to start it a little louder than a shower. (Remember that whooshy fans, air filters, and wave sounds may totally fail because they are just too mild to really screen out disturbances.)

Your Toddler May Fight Naps Because He is Napping Too Much. Or at the Wrong Time.

While too little naptime sleep is the biggest complaint I hear, some kids actually sleep too long during the day…and others sleep at odd hours that do not work with their parents’ schedules.

How Long Should Your Toddler Nap

Typically, kids nap 1 or 2 hours at each naptime. If your child is napping longer but still sleeping well at night, congratulations! You have hit the parent jackpot. But more often, kids who nap a lot end up needing a later bedtime…or awaking more often at night. That is fine if it suits your life schedule—but if you would like to shift some of that day sleep to the nighttime, it is pretty easy to do.

For example, say your child naps a lot and her bedtime is 8pm, but she is awake and chatty then and never falls asleep before 9:30pm. Try shortening her afternoon nap by 15 minutes (so she is a bit more tired at night) and starting her bedtime routine at 9pm. Then, if that goes well, shorten her nap again and slide bedtime another 15 minutes earlier. That should nestle her into the schedule you want. (You will know you are shrinking her nap too much if she gets cranky in the early evening).

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