Many parents believe that cutting out their toddler's nap will help them go to sleep at night. However, many toddlers have difficulty falling asleep not because of a sleep deficit but because of poor sleeping habits, an inconsistent schedule or stressful events such as beginning day care or the birth of a sibling. Cutting out a toddler's nap before she is ready to give it up could increase the severity of your toddler's inability to settle at night, leading to further restlessness and sleep deprivation. You can take several steps to ensure that naps don't deprive your youngster of a decent amount of shut-eye at night.
1. Length of Naps
While most infants take two naps, one in the morning and one at night, most toddlers are down to one afternoon nap by 18 months of age. The length of a toddler's naps varies from one to three hours per day. Watch for cues from your child to help you determine the amount of daytime sleep your child needs. Sleeping too much or not enough can interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep at night. Don't be afraid to shorten your child's nap time if you notice difficulties with his nighttime sleep. Begin by waking your toddler 15 minutes earlier and shorten the nap from there, if necessary.
2. Sleep Schedule
According to an article at WebMD.com, don't put too much emphasis on nap times. While naps are important, they shouldn't be the focus of your child's day. Do your best to relax and follow your child's sleep patterns. If you are home with your child, use the same bedtime routine at nap time. This can include a small snack, a story and being tucked in. The key is to be consistent, yet flexible.
3. Carve Out a Nap Time
It is not always possible to stick to a precise schedule, but whenever possible, put your child to nap in the same room that he sleeps in at about the same time each day. Your toddler will come to expect this and over time, his body will adjust to the schedule. This will also make it easier for you to determine when he is ready to give up his nap or shorten it because he won't be sleep deprived. Toddlers that rest well during the day tend to have a much easier time falling asleep and self-soothing.
4. Rest Time
It could be possible that your toddler is going to fight her bedtime no matter what you do. Even if she is still having difficulty falling asleep even after making necessary changes, continue putting her to bed at the same time each evening. Bedtime is bedtime. Let her know that bedtime is a time for sleep, give her some stuffed animals to talk to and let her unwind on her own. Do your best to avoid checking on her unless she is crying excessively. She will likely settle on her own. You might notice that she is falling asleep at the same time each night and a slightly later bedtime might help ensure an easier time drifting off.
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images