Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Naps: A Review (5 of 5)
April 29, 2024

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night's Sleep

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
Chapter 1 (only 16 pages!) outlines everything you need to know about your child's sleep.

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

Blog Posts 15, based on the United States of America Department of the Army Field Manual: Holistic Healing and Fitness, describe what really matters for your child’s sleep. If sleep is an important enough topic for national defense than surely sleep should be considered a serious topic for parenting!

Blog 187Naps: A Review (5 of 5)

  1. Historical Trends

In the past, between the ages of 4 and 6 years, a higher percent- age of children took naps, but they had fewer naps per week. 

Dr. Foster wrote in 1927, “Up to the age of five (the usual age for entering kindergarten) more than half of the children nap. The drop from 68 percent at 4.5 years to 30 percent at 5–5.5 years” reflects entry into school. This 38% decrease in 1927 is similar to the 35% decrease noted in 1984–86 in children between 3 years and 4 years, but it is occurring a year earlier! Perhaps this decrease occurring one year earlier reflects a modern trend toward earlier involvement in pre-school, daycare, or scheduled activities so fewer children are napping at a younger age.   Also, there is a modern trend for those children who are napping toward more naps per week and perhaps this modern trend to more naps per week reflects the modern trend towards later bedtimes causing more daytime sleepiness in some children. 

Whatever the cause or causes for these trends, it is clear that parents influence nap behavior, and, over time, parenting practices change. 

  1. Bedtimes

A late bedtime means that sleep is not in synchrony with the brain’s natural circadian sleep rhythm (Blog Post 112) and the duration of night sleep is shorter (Blog Post 109); both of which will impair the child during the day even if the naps are long (Blog Posts 113 and 182).


  1. Hello! I have learned so much from your book and it has helped my 20 week twin girls a lot. They’ve been sleeping independently through the night in their crib since they were 12 weeks old. However, I’m still battling short naps and evening fussiness. Here is a typical day:

    7-7:30am: Wake up and feed
    We wait for sleepy cues and they go down for first nap in their crib between 8:30-9am. At almost exactly 45 min into this nap they stir and wake up. If I replace their pacifiers they will then sleep longer and give me a 90-120 min nap, sometimes I have to do it twice. One twin is harder than the other in this department but they don’t seem to wake each other up.

    10:30-11: Feed, play, then down for second nap in crib after sleepy cues, usually 11:30-12pm. Same thing happens after 45min, replace pacifiers and they sleep another hour.

    1-1:30pm: Feed, play, down for third nap around 2:30-3, but then they won’t sleep for longer than 20-30 min in their crib and won’t go to right to sleep without fussing like their first two naps. When they were younger they would sleep an hour in a swing or bouncy chair but now they get distracted or woken easily.

    We’ll do another feeding at 4-4:30 and then try again for a short nap in a stroller or carrier but it’s always a battle. They seem sleepy and cranky all late afternoon until we do the last feeding at 6:30 and down to bed at 7pm. They go right to sleep; if there’s any crying it doesn’t last longer than five minutes. They then sleep through the night until morning wake up. I’ve thought about putting them down for an earlier bedtime per your book but then I’m worried about them getting enough to eat during the day and then breaking up their nighttime sleep for a feeding.

    Any suggestions on these nap battles and evening fussiness, or is this a developmental phase we just wait out?

    1. What was their gestational age at birth?
      Are they identical or fraternal twins?
      How involved is the father regarding night care and sleep issues?
      Are you referring to my twin book?

  2. Thank you for the quick reply! They were born at 37 weeks, healthy, no issues. They are identical and father is very involved; he is on paternity leave so we are doing everything together all day/night. I wasn’t aware of your twin book, I have your original “Healthy Sleep Habits” one.

    1. Because the bedtime is too late, their sleep tank is going low and by the afternoon they have pre sleep arousal that interferes with a solid afternoon nap (down for third nap around 2:30-3, but then they won’t sleep for longer than 20-30 min) in their crib and won’t go to right to sleep without fussing like their first two naps.). The fatigue worsens so their behavior worsens
      (We’ll do another feeding at 4-4:30 and then try again for a short nap in a stroller or carrier but it’s always a battle. They seem sleepy and cranky all late afternoon).
      Please try for 3-5 nights only:
      1. No new nap begins after 3pm, if they are asleep then, let them sleep.
      2. Bedtime is 5:30pm (they are bathed, fed, soothed, put down drowsy but awake, you are leaving the room-lights out at 5:30pm)
      Because of the early bedtime feeding, they might wake up for a normal night feeding.
      Keep a record of sleep, mood, and behavior and let me know how it goes.
      Does this help?

  3. Thank you! We will try the earlier bedtime. If it means needing to feed them later on in the night but they are happier during the day it will be worth it. I’ll let you know how it goes. Is this going to help with them always waking up 45 minutes into their naps as well or is that something they develop as they grow? Should I continue trying to lengthen them to 90 min?

    1. Is this going to help with them always waking up 45 minutes into their naps? Yes.

      Is that something they develop as they grow? Yes.

      Should I continue trying to lengthen them to 90 min? Yes if you are comfortable trying this and it often works.

  4. Hi Dr. Weissbluth,

    We’ve done 5 nights with a 5:30pm bedtime and below is a summary of their sleep and moods. Nap timing, though based on tired cues, still seems variable throughout the day and they are still waking up 45 min into most of them and/or usually only sleeping an hour at a time. We are also experiencing more early morning wakings which were very rare when we were putting them to bed at 7pm (they consistently woke at 6:30-7am then). Based on what you see should we continue with the early bedtime? Their mood at the end of the day is definitely better but that 3rd nap before 3pm is very tricky to time since they usually wake up more than 2 hours before bedtime and timing the last feeding is tricky as well. I exclusively pump and they only get breast milk, around 25-28 ounces a day, and they are each 12 and 13 lbs. We are also thinking of putting them in different cribs (same room) since M is currently the better day sleeper. I rarely get them off sync with their timing, not letting one sleep more than 30 minutes than the other.

    Night/Day 1:

    Bedtime 1730. M went right to sleep. S woke up within 5 min, cried for 30 min before falling asleep. She woke up briefly 30 min later, self soothed back to sleep. They’ve never been this fussy at bedtime before, they usually go right down. They slept until 0445. We fed them bottles (expressed breast milk) that they finished vigorously, and then put them back to bed. They went straight to sleep, slept until 0745. Happy all morning.

    Nap at 0900. S slept for one hour, couldn’t soothe back to sleep. M slept for 1hr 40 min and I had to wake her up to keep them synced which made her fussy.

    Nap at 1200, M took 10 min to settle and was fussy, S went right to sleep. They both slept for 40 min.

    Down at 1430, no protest but they only slept for 30 min. They were very hysterical while I tried the graduated extinction method for 20 min. However, they stayed up playing with minimal fussiness until bedtime.

    Down at 1730, then they took turns falling asleep and waking up crying and being soothed back to sleep until 1900.

    Day 2:

    Slept until 0600. Fed them, then put them right back down because they still seemed tired. They slept until 0800.

    Nap 1 0930, cried for 20 min – M slept for 2 hours, S only 45 min. We let M sleep as long as possible while we hung with S, when M woke up S was ready for another nap so we put her down solo at 1220, she slept for 50 min.

    M went down again at 1330 and slept for 50 min. When M woke up we put S down at 1430 and she slept for 90 min. We’ve never had them this off sync before.

    Bedtime at 1730. M was definitely very tired after being awake for almost 3 hours so she cried and did some “false starts” for an hour. She woke up S who would join her in crying. They slept until 0650 the next morning, no night wakings.

    Day 3:
    Slept from 1820-0650. Happy, normal selves all morning.

    Nap 1: 0815-1000. No crying, asleep within 5 min, Stevie woke up after 45 min, soothed with pacifier. Happy, normal selves.

    Nap 2: 1130. S woke up at 20 min, cried briefly, self soothed and slept 2 hours. M woke up at 45 min, soothed with pacifier, slept 2 hours 15 min.

    Nap 3: 1445-1600. At 1630 they were visibly tired, little fussy but possibly from hunger. Down at 1730, S cried for 5 min.

    Day 4:

    Up at 0700. This was a very unusual night. From 0200-0630 they woke up multiple times and made noises. Twice S cried on and off for more than 10 min and was soothed with a pacifier. The other times they self soothed back to sleep. They didn’t seem hungry. They haven’t done this since they were 10 weeks.

    Nap: 0830. M slept 2 hours, S slept 90 min. Very happy all morning. I woke up M to try to sync them back together.

    Nap: 1140. S cried for 5 min, slept for 1hr 15 min, M slept for 1 hr 40 min.

    Nap: 1440-1540, neither could be soothed with pacifiers. They were a bit fussy until they had their bath and bottle. Down at 1730, no crying.

    Day 5:

    Slept until 0630. S cried at 0400 but soothed by pacifier. S woke at 0600 but we let her chatter a bit before getting up.

    Nap at 0800, no crying. M woke up 30 min later, soothed by pacifier, only slept until 0900. S slept until 0920.

    Nap at 1030 (saw tired cues). Went asleep with no crying. Woke at 1130, soothed with pacifier. Still sleeping at 1215 as I type this.

    1. Thank you for your detailed report. It is difficult for me to see the big picture but you stated that “Their mood at the end of the day is definitely better.” Is this a mild, moderate, or large improvement? Perhaps this is a sufficient reason to continue the plan for another 3-5 days; what do you think?

  5. Thanks again for such a quick reply! Yes, I would say their mood at the end of the day is a large improvement. I think the night wakings and continuously short naps are what threw me off. We will continue with the 5:30pm bedtime for another few nights and see if anything changes. If they wake up before 6am and we do a feeding, your book mentioned putting them back down again to prolong the “night sleep” which we have done before. To protect that morning nap should we then wake them up at a certain time or just let them sleep as long as they want? Right now their morning nap usually starts between 8-9am and they are awake 75-90 minutes before showing drowsy signs.

    1. Because of the “large improvement” in mood. Please stick with the early bedtime. Follow your heart in trying to extend “night sleep” in the early morning. If successful, do not wake them. Your expectation is that between 4-6 months of age (or a little later because of their gestational age at birth), a long and regular mid morning nap will develop that begins about 9am and lasts 1-2 hours and later a midday nap starts at 12-2pm and also lasts 1-2 hours. The better rested they are in the morning (from an early bedtime) the sooner and more likely this will occur. Does this help?

  6. Hi again! We’ve done a few more nights with the 5:30 bedtime and that late afternoon “witching hour” had reappeared. They have been sleeping until 6-7am every morning. They will take long naps in the morning and early afternoon but when put down between 2-2:30pm they won’t sleep for more than 45 min and then wake up very cranky and sometimes inconsolable. We are then stuck between trying to put them down for another nap at 4 and having them wake up close to the original bedtime goal or dealing with nonstop crying until 5:30pm. Any ideas?

    1. Please describe with some detail: how long does the ‘witching behavior’ last? When does it start? Are they consolable or inconsolable? Is it mild, moderate, or severe?
      What time does a morning nap usually begin and when does it often end. I know there is variation day by day so a general or approximate answer is fine. Same for the second nap.

  7. Morning nap starts 8-9am and they’ll sleep 1-2 hours. Second nap starts 11-12 and they’ll sleep 1-2 hours. These are based on them waking up between 6:30-7:30am. “Witching hour” is after they’ve woken up from a 45 min nap that starts 2-3pm. They are moderately inconsolable, needing to be in a carrier or held constantly until bedtime routines that start at 4:30pm. They will even cry during feedings.

    1. After the fist nap ends, do you think, based on drowsy signs, the second nap might be able to start a little earlier? If so, try an earlier second nap and third nap. Sometimes, shortening the interval of wakefulness between naps produces better naps and less presleep arousal later.

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