Tips on How to Extend Short Naps
Updated: Jun 2, 2021
If your baby is consistently short naps, this blog post is for you. First off, I want to reiterate that short naps, although frustrating, are very common in babies under 6 months. If your child is less than 6 months old and taking short naps, that is pretty developmentally appropriate as some children do not learn to connect sleep cycles during daytime sleep until closer to 6 months old.
However, if your baby is older than 6 months old and still taking short naps, please read on for some tips.
If you have not yet, you need to teach your child how to fall asleep independently. This way if they do wake up from a nap early, you know that they are capable of going back to sleep without your intervention. This plays a big part in being able to extend those naps.
Handle overnight sleep first. Restful overnight sleep lays a great foundation for good naps. Great overnight sleep will ensure your child is well-rested, they are not overtired, they can go to sleep independently and string together several sleep cycles.
Take a hard look at your child’s daily schedule and evaluate their wake windows. Wake windows are a very tricky thing. If their wake window is too short, your child will not be sleepy enough to take a full nap. If their wake window is too long, your child could be overtired, which also causes a short nap. You need to find that perfect balance for your child, where they are ready for a nap but not overtired. If you want my free master sleep chart that details wake windows for each age and a lot of other helpful information, click here.
If your child does have a short nap, do not adjust their wake window to accommodate for that. Here an example, Tommy takes a 30-minute nap, Tommy needs a 3-hour wake window, but because he took a short nap he gets tired at the 2-hour mark. Tommy’s parents put him down, and now because of the shorter wake window, Tommy takes another short nap and the vicious cycle goes on and on. Instead, try to keep their original wake window in the hopes that they will be tired and get a full nap in on the next one.
Keep your child’s schedule as consistent as possible. Try to have them up around the same time each morning and keep the same bedtime each night. Predictability and consistency are your best friends when trying to establish healthy sleep habits.
Make sure your child’s nap environment is conducive to sleep. Make the room as dark as possible and use a white noise machine to drown out any distractions. Also, replicate a miniature version of your bedtime routine for each nap. The routine will be familiar to your child and signal to them it is time to go to sleep.
If your child wakes up early from a nap, don’t rush in and grab them immediately. Give them some time to see if they will go back to sleep. Oftentimes parents are surprised that when given the chance to do so, their child goes back to sleep.
Extending naps is a process that takes time and consistency. Give your child some grace and meet them where they are. Remember, sleep progress is not linear, but as long as you stay consistent and have an age-appropriate schedule, your child’s naps should improve.