Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Is there such a thing as too late of a naptime?

We are starting a new series of Q & A blogs-

I take a question (from tired Mom's like you) and give my answer (and my professional opinion).  Note: If you would like to submit a question please do so in the "Post a Question" area of the blog below.  

This month I answer a question from the Mom of a 3yr who's late naps are making bedtime too late.

Question from Mom:

Q: "I'd like your professional opinion - I am the mother of a 10-month-old and 3-year-old. My older daughter just turned 3, and currently on a 2:30PM nap to match my (11-month old's afternoon nap). 

However, the nap ends up running later and later, which results in a late bedtime (10 or 10:30 PM). 

My husband thinks I should drop the nap, but I'm not sure. It just seems 10:30 PM is too late for her to go to sleep at age 3.

Should I continue with the nap? How can I control these factors and get bedtime back to a reasonable hour?

My answer:

A: Yes, there is definitely such a thing as too late of a bedtime and I get this question from my client's at nearly every age of baby or child.  I agree that 10 PM is too late for a 3 year old.  

You didn't mention what time she wakes in the morning but assuming she:
  • wakes around 7 AM
  • falls asleep independently
  • is taking one nap a day
then the schedule below would be a great schedule to follow and is age appropriate for a 3-year-old.

At her age (or a child between 2 and 3 years old), the average amount of sleep is around 10 1/2 hours at night plus a 1 1/2 hour afternoon nap.

Ideal schedule at 3 years old  

Wake up in the morning (no early than 6 and no later than 7:30 AM)
7:00 AM - wake up
1:00 or 2 PM - nap 
(put her down between 6-7 hours after she woke in the morning)
2:30 PM - Wake from nap (wake her up no later than 3 PM).  
8:00 AM - bedtime

NOTE: A good rule of thumb at 3 years old, up from the nap by 3 PM.

Instead of dropping the nap, all at once take these gradual steps to fix the problem and move towards a no nap schedule soon.  Work on cutting back or shortening the nap so that her bedtime isn't so late.  You do this by waking her up from nap time by 3 PM or after 1 1/2 hours of day sleep!!  

Or if it works better for your two little ones plus you don't mind a little bit of a later bedtime and your child sleeps after 7:00 AM in the morning - then you can push nap and bedtime a little later in the day.  Just keep in mind that we really do want her to get that 10 1/2 hours of night sleep.    If she wakes at 7:30 AM or at least after 7 AM, then a 2 PM nap and an 8:30 or 9 PM bedtime would still work.

Shorten naptime to fix late bedtime

The first step to fix this late bedtime and gradual the step before you consider dropping the nap completely is to shorten her nap so that she sleeps around 1 1/2 hours at naptime.

I agree with you, 10:30 PM is too late for her to go to sleep at night so to help with that start waking her up from the nap 15 min earlier every 2-3 days until you find a place that brings bedtime up to where she is getting about 10 1/2 hrs of nighttime sleep.  You didn't mention how long she sleeps for at naptime, but start with waking her at 1 1/2 hours of sleep or less.

You can keep shortening the nap and cutting it down until you get to a 45min mark.  At that point, you can decide if it is time to drop that nap completely.  My blog on dropping the nap is a good review of what to be looking for to decide that. You may see that she needs a nap every 2 days or 3 days before she gets ready to drop athe napo completely.

Quiet Time

When she is ready to drop the nap, don't skip nap times completely - you both need the downtime. What I recommend is to keep sending them to their room for quiet time - say to her "you don't have to sleep but you must have 45-60 min quiet time".  She can read a book or a quiet toy, but she must remain on her bed quietly for this time period.

On days when she doesn't nap make sure her bedtime is early enough so that she gets at least 12hr of night sleep.

I hope that helps!
Sweet Dreams
Michelle S. Donaghy, Certified Gentle Sleep Coach