This is the exact nap schedule to guarantee your kid sleeps through the nightAugust 11, 2021
A BABY that sleeps through the night is the holy grail of parenting.
So when things aren’t going to plan, bedtime can quickly become fraught with stress.
Annie Simpson, co-founder of Infant Sleep Consultants, explains this is where ‘sleep pressure’ comes in.
She says: “If you use up lots of energy during the day and have a flat battery when you go to bed at night time, there is a lot of sleep pressure pushing us to sleep.
“As the night progresses, that sleep pressure decreases – which is why people talk about an increase in early morning wakings.”
Having the right nap routine for your child can help regulate sleep pressure and encourage them to snooze through.
It’s about finding a balance
“It’s about finding a balance between not letting your child nap too frequently during the day which would mean they’re more likely to cat nap, but not waiting so long that they become completely overtired and the wheels fall off,” says Annie.
This balance will change as your child grows up and gradually requires less sleep per day.
So here are the expert-approved nap schedules by age – and tips for what you should consider at each stage to make sure your routine works for your little one.
Nap schedules by age…
Nap 1, morning: Two hours after they’ve woken up, sleep for up to 1.5 hours.
Nap 2, lunchtime: After a 2.5-hour awake window, sleep for 1.5 – 2 hours.
Nap 3, end of the day: After a 2-hour awake window, a little power nap before 5pm – giving them another two hours until bedtime.
Annie says: “With that end of day nap, you want to make sure there’s enough sleep pressure for them to sleep at bedtime.”
Nap 1, morning: Three hours after they’ve woken up, sleep for half an hour.
Nap 2, lunchtime: After a 2.5 – 3-hour awake window, sleep for up to 2 hours, then be awake until bedtime.
A rigid vs flexible routine
Contrary to what some baby books say, you don’t need to run your family life with military precision to have a happy baby who sleeps well.
Annie warns that being too strict can even cause other problems: “Some of the more rigid routines will say things like all naps should be at home in the cot.
“Typically mum is at home with the baby and dad is back at work, so the problem with a very rigid nap routine is it isolates the mum and that can be very dangerous.
“A flexible routine will always be something we would recommend.”
So if you wake up in the morning and you want to see your friend for a coffee – do it!
Annie says: “If they don’t sleep well in that morning nap because the baby has FOMO and is too distracted, you can try again at lunchtime and that will mean the rest of their day is OK.”
The most important thing is working out a routine that suits your family.
Nap 1, lunchtime: Sleep for 1.5 – 2 hours.
Annie says that by one-and-a-half years old at the latest, tots should only be having one nap a day.
“It doesn’t have to be at lunchtime, but you do want to balance the amount of awake time they have,” she says.
“The problem with letting them nap from 10am – 12pm, for example, would be that they’ve got that long afternoon ahead of them so they’re likely to become very overtired at the end of the day.”
2-3 year-old toddler
Your little one will likely still be napping at lunchtime, but the ideal duration varies from child to child.
There’s a simple way to know if your nap schedule needs tweaking though – or whether it’s time to let go of the lunchtime nap altogether.
Annie says: “The first thing we look at with children of this age is how long they’re napping for during the day and how long they’re taking to settle at bedtime.
“Because sometimes what happens is that they get into a cycle of taking up to an hour to settle at bedtime and then will play catch-up the next day because they’re tired.
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“But then they take longer to settle at bedtime again.
“In that case, we would tell parents you’re going to need to think about reducing this lunchtime nap.”
The textbook amount of time children should take to fall asleep at bedtime is within 15 or 20 minutes – any more than that and it could be time to reassess your routine.
If the thought of that fills you with fear, remember that it will help set your toddler up for a successful night’s sleep, which will reap its own rewards.
In other parenting news, we told you about the mum who gave birth to an 11lb baby without pain relief.
We also revealed the lengths another mum goes to keep her kids entertained on roadtrips.
And this is the clever way a third mum speeds up lunch prep on busy school mornings.
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