Toddler Sleep: How to Deal With Early Rising and Reducing Naps

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  • August 10, 2010

toddlerThank you for all the great questions you are sending in!! Keep’ em coming!

This week I am combining two questions about transitioning from 2 naps to 1:

Our 19 month old son seems to be transitioning from 2 naps to 1 nap.  Are there any ways to make this easier?  Any tips to make the transition smoother?  He’s also waking up at 5 or 5:30a.m.   Are these signs of a transition? CT

I‘m trying to transition our 16-month old to one nap and finding it very difficult.  He was moving his morning nap later and later to where it was 10:30 am or later when he would go down and would sleep for 1.5 hours or a bit more.  He would need a short 2nd nap at 3:30 or so but I would wake him around 4 no matter what time he went down so I could keep his bedtime at 7.  Trying to switch to afternoon nap only, not going well.  He’s not sleeping long enough and is exhausted.  Its only been a week, should I continue this or go back to two naps?  Thanks!!  Jana

First let’s review the toddler sleep averages:

Average sleep needs for a 12 month old is 11.25 at night and 2.5 over 2 naps.

Average sleep needs for a 18 month old is 11.25 at night and 2.25 over 1 nap.

Below is a list of readiness signs for consolidating to one nap

-he’s 15 to 18 months old (later is not uncommon, earlier very rare)

-he’s sleeping through the night consistently- 10-11 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If he’s not, work on improving nighttime sleep before you tackle the nap change.

-he’s taking longer and longer–and longer–to fall asleep for the morning nap, or falling asleep easily for his morning nap but then waking up from it quite early, or sleeping for such a long time in the morning that he won’t take his afternoon nap (meaning you will have a very testy and overtired child by bedtime).

When looking at his daytime sleep schedule, remember you are looking for a consistent pattern. Don’t mistake one or two abbreviated mornings naps or skipped afternoon naps for the sign that he’s ready for the change.

If after reading this list you find you have started transitioning your toddler too early, you can return to 2 naps and keep the morning nap short, like 45 minutes, if you find that your toddler has trouble going down for her afternoon nap.

Tips for a smooth transition

-Make small changes each day for about 7-10 days. Push the morning nap later- first to 11am, then 11:30am, then 12noon etc.  Some toddlers you can push quickly to noon and others need the full week. Don’t get stuck in late morning.

-Move to the early afternoon schedule within 7-10 days.

-If she sleeps for only one hour and wakes up tired, which is common during the transition, try to soothe and resettle her back to sleep. If all else fails use one of your emergency backup nap techniques to get her some more sleep.

-Keep bedtime early- 7pm is the average. Remember, your toddler may be getting less sleep during this transition and needs an earlier bedtime.

-Be open to an occasional “two nap” day for catch up. Keep the morning nap short, about 45 minutes  so you can still put her down after lunch for the second nap. The next day, get back on the one-nap consolidation path.

-Get rid of the morning nap NOT the afternoon nap.

During this transition your child may start rising before 6:00am- especially if he already had a history of this. Here are some of the reasons why.

If your toddler wakes before 6:00am, he’s probably overtired. Overtired children don’t sleep as well, or sleep as long, as well-rested ones. He may be:

-Going to bed too late

-Not napping enough

-Staying up too long between the end of his afternoon nap and going to bed (try not to let it exceed 4 hours)

-Going to bed when he’s past that “drowsy but awake”  mark. If he’s too drowsy, he won’t know how to get himself back to sleep when he’s more alert–including at 5:00a.m.

Remember to keep bed time early during the transition from 2 naps to 1 and be consistent about not getting your toddler out of the crib until 6:00a.m.!

Sleep tight,

Kim

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photo credit: makelessnoise via photopin cc

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