My oldest child was a chronically short napper. And I remember how frustrating that was for me! I had plans to do other things than spend my whole day trying to help her go to sleep and stay asleep. If you have a short napper, you know what I’m talking about! It’s no fun! This is one of the most common sleep struggles that I hear.
Short naps are exhausting because:
They often lead to more disrupted night sleep, which then leads to short naps the next day, which then leads to poor night sleep… you see where I’m going here.
You don’t get a break during the day. (We all need one and there is nothing wrong with that!)
Short naps can result in a lot of sleep obsession. I remember all I thought about all day was my baby’s naps and I see this with a lot of moms. I see moms posting questions multiple times a day in sleep groups, moms furiously tracking their baby’s sleep to try and look for patterns, moms trying to recreate the magic of that one time their baby took a longer nap. (I once had a mom that fed her baby avocado at lunch every day because one time her baby took a long nap after eating it.)
Why your baby takes short naps:
Age: Sometimes short naps are developmentally appropriate. For babies under six months, there is no consistency in sleep rhythms. Naps are going to vary in their timing and length in these early months, as the daytime sleep is not fully developed and organized in the brain until around 6 months (post your due date). It is okay to help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep in the early months.
Once your baby reaches six months, a short nap is anything less than 45 minutes. Although 45 minutes doesn’t sound like a super long nap, it is a full sleep cycle and will help your child feel rested for a while after. The goal is for the first two naps to be longer than 45 minutes. If your baby still needs more than two naps, the last nap can be a short “catnap”. The point of these is to bridge bedtime and help your baby go down without being overtired.
Bedtime: Yes, you read that right. Quite often I see that nap issues are related to what is going on at bedtime. If your child is not awake when going into their crib or bed at bedtime, they most likely do not have the independent sleep skills to be able to put themselves to sleep for a nap or put themselves back to sleep if they wake up too soon from a nap.
Environment: This may be the easiest thing to change and sometimes can make a huge difference.
These three components make for the best sleep environment:
cool (68-72 degrees according to the AAP)
VERY dark- sometimes more than one layer of blackout shades is necessary.
quiet (with white noise)
Micro Naps: A 5 minute catnap while nursing, while in the car, etc. will potentially ruin the length of other naps.
Overtired: If you wait until your baby is overtired, she will have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep for naps (and at night).
Under-tired: As babies get older the amount of time they need to be awake between naps gradually extends. This is necessary in order to build up the sleep pressure for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Sleep Association: If your baby is older than 6 months and isn’t falling asleep independently, the same sleep associations that leads to frequent night waking also leads to crap naps.
If you are struggling with short naps and/or night wakings, I’d be happy to consult with you! Contact me here: https://tulsapediatricsleepconsulting.com/contact/