Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
113
Long Naps versus Short Naps
January 9, 2023

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Introduction

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

Question:  Why do some children have long naps, and other children have short naps?

Answer: It partially depends on the bedtime

Blog 113Long Naps versus Short Naps

When the bedtime is early, children wake up well rested.  Because there is a genetic effect on the duration of naps, some children take long naps and other children take short naps.  There is also a separate genetic effect on the duration of night sleep.  In this situation, there is no association between the duration of night sleep and the duration of day sleep (naps).  If your firstborn child took long naps, and you got used to this free time during the day, you might be frustrated if your second child takes short naps.  You cannot make this second child take long naps.

When the bedtime is too late, children do not wake up well rested, even with a late wake-up time, because they are not sleeping in synchrony with their circadian sleep rhythms (Blog Posts 62 and 112).  Also, usually, a later wake-up time, does not fully compensate for a later bedtime so that the duration of night sleep is shorter.   Therefore, throughout the day, there is increased sleepiness that causes long naps.  Here too, usually, the longer naps do not fully compensate for the shorter night sleep, so the duration of total (24-hour) sleep is shorter.  In this situation, there is an association between the duration of night sleep and the duration of day sleep (naps). That is, the shorter the night sleep, the longer the naps.  The late bedtime is masking the genetic effect on the duration of naps.  Also, in this situation, because sleep is not aligned with circadian sleep rhythms, short sleep duration, or both, there are many possible adverse outcomes for the child. Some researchers have mistakenly focused on the long nap(s) as the problem instead of correctly focusing on the parent-caused too late bedtime.

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Comments

  1. Hi Dr. Weissbluth,
    We have a 3 month old and we are having a couple problems.
    1 – we did extinction at around 10 or 11 weeks, and it has worked pretty well. He cried 50 minutes the first night and most nights since, he has only cried 15 minutes or so, but he’s still crying at least 5 or 10 minutes most nights. Is that to be expected? The book describes such a dramatic drop to 0 crying that we were almost surprised to have any crying still several weeks later.
    2 – naps have been a big issue. We try to do drowsy but awake, but are perhaps leaving him drowsier than we should. But, for every single nap of every day he wakes up at 30 minutes, like clockwork. We feel like our two choices are either let him wake up and have an overtired baby, or pick him up and let him spend the rest of his nap on his mom or dad while we rock him back to sleep (he clearly still seems tired). Do you have any guidance on how to improve his ability to stay down for a nap?

    Thank you!!

    1. What is the usual falling asleep time at night? Describe his behavior and mood during the hour or so before the sleep time when he is alone with toys and not in your arms or otherwise been soothed or attended by you.

  2. Hi our 8 week old will not sleep unaided during the day. She sleeps only in her swing or on someone whereas during the night, she falls asleep easily and wont wake for a feeding for 5+ hours (we used extinction method). She used to sleep in her babydome or basinette during the day in her first few weeks, but she went through her fussy phase and needed lots of extra soothing and holding to be able to sleep. She’s out of the fussiness phase but cannot sleep alone still. She typically goes to bed for the night between 7 and 8. During the day, we watch for signs of drowsiness then soothe to sleep but do not have a set nap schedule. She eats about every 2 hours during day. How can we get her to sleep by herself during the day?

    1. Was she born on, before, or after her due date?
      How involved is the father in sleeping her for naps, when available?
      Describe her mood and behavior when not soothed, held, or rocked between 5-7pm.

  3. She was born 1 week before due date. Father also will soothe and hold her for naps. We don’t usually attempt to put her down from 5 and 7. I tried tonight to see and she started crying.

    1. The brain wants an early fall asleep time around 6 weeks of age as the night sleep circadian rhythm begins. Because of her age focus only on night sleep. Practice a 5:30pm asleep time and drowsy but awake at this time. Choose a night sleep solution (Chapter 5 in my book) that you are comfortable with. The improved night sleep will eventually make naps better. For now, do whatever you can to maximize day sleep and minimize fussiness or crying during the day. Daytime sleep rhythms will emerge around 3-4 months of age and solidify by 6 months of age or earlier if, and only if, night sleep is healthy.

  4. Dear Dr. Weissbluth,

    My son is 4.5 months old. Prior to 3 months, he was beginning to sleep through the night in his SNOO (with motion on) and napped in my arms or in his carrier – often for hours at a time. Around 3 months, he started having night time awakenings and was unable to fall asleep in my arms. I read your book “Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child” and we implemented extinction with early bedtime (5:30) and weaned him from his SNOO. He now sleeps in a motionless crib in our room. Extinction worked well for night time sleep and it only took about a week. He now falls asleep pretty reliably after bath time, feeding, a short lullaby with upright rocking with pretty much no crying at night. He usually wakes twice to feed and will go back to sleep on his own, and then wakes up between 5 – 6am. His bedtime is usually between 5:30 and 6:30pm.

    Our problem is with naps. He often takes only 30-40 min naps and when he awakes he cries and is fussy. I have experimented with wake windows. In the beginning, I tried short wake windows (45min – 1 hour) based on drowsy signs and still his naps were usually no longer than 45 min. Friends told me to try extending the wake windows and get him outside so I have tried 90min – 120 min wake windows. Often naps are worse with long wake windows – more like 30 min. Sometimes if I let him cry when he wakes up he can put himself back to sleep but sometimes even after 30 min of crying, he does not go back to sleep and I find listening to him cry for so long very stressful. I’ve tried rushing in when I see him stirring to put the pacifier back in his mouth but that doesn’t usually work as I think I just distract him.

    Our nap routine includes breast feeding in a dark room, the short lullaby with rocking, and then I put him down in his crib with a pacifier. I have the windows blacked out and a sound machine going.

    I’m finding the short naps stressful because we don’t have any sort of a routine, it’s hard for us to leave the house, and I find that he doesn’t seem very well rested when he wakes up so I’m worried about his quality of day time sleep. He also seems to be having more night time awakenings again.

    Your help is greatly appreciated.

    1. Please read Blog Post 119 regarding nap variability and ‘wake windows’.
      Because your son has great night sleep and self-soothing skills, please be optimistic that naps will lengthen and become more regular over the next 6 weeks.
      Your goals are to keep the bedtime super early and variable (because naps are currently more variable) and very short intervals of wakefulness between naps based on subtle drowsy signs.
      I know that you might feel temporarily ‘nap-trapped’ but if you are able to do whatever it takes to maximize naps now and to protect night sleep, soon you will see longer, fewer, and more regular naps. Then, the bedtime might be moved a little later.
      Does this help?

  5. Yes! Thank you! So basically I have a baby who takes short naps and that means I should shorten his time awake based on drowsy signs – not timing wake windows. In time, he may learn to lengthen his naps. Is there any benefit to allowing him to cry when he wakes up from a nap at 30 or 40 minutes to see if he can connect his sleep cycles? If so, how long should I wait?
    Thank you very much for your help and prompt response.

    1. “Is there any benefit to allowing him to cry when he wakes up from a nap at 30 or 40 minutes?” At his age, there is no simple answer to this question. Please read the discussion of this topic in my book to better understand different answers to this question.

  6. Hello Dr. Weissbluth,

    Thanks in large part to your book and guidance, we are parents of a very well rested and nearly universally happy 19 month old. He has a remarkably stable sleep rhythm, falling asleep between 7 & 7:30pm and waking between 6 & 7 am on 80% of days. His 24 hour sleep total varies from 13 to 14 hours. He went down to one nap rather young, around 15 months. This nap has been remarkably stable as well, falling between 11am and 2pm.

    My question is about nap “capping”. On over 50% of days, we wake him at 2pm. We have found if he sleeps past 2pm, his bedtime becomes too late. Is it ok to artificially truncate his naps so often? His one nap is around 2 hours on average. Usually bit longer, but some days it’s only 1.5 hours.

    Thank you.

    1. I suggest that for 5-10 days, rigorously use a bedtime of 6:30pm. Observe the latency to sleep onset, the duration of night sleep and day sleep. During this trial, do not cap the naps. I know this might sound crazy, but your happy boy might even appear happier, especially in the late afternoon and early evening. And you know I am not crazy to suggest that his night sleep durations might even be longer. Well, at the end of the trial, if you see no benefit, then go back to the old style. The reason I strongly urge you do the trial is because if I am correct that the current bedtime is too late, then you are on a slow but definite path towards cumulative sleepiness and his sweet nature will not persist. Maybe the current bedtime 7-7:30 was fine when he was taking two naps. How does this sound?

  7. Thank you for your prompt reply! I think it’s worth a shot. I worry about long sleep latency as he VERY reliably does not fall asleep until he’s been awake for at least 5.5 hours after he wakes from his nap. So if he sleeps until 3 and we put him in his crib 3.5 hours later things may go awry. But worth some experimentation as he clearly does not enjoy being woken from his naps prematurely.

    1. I hope you do the trial. Maybe spend an additional 5 minutes every night soothing him to see if that shortens the latency to sleep onset. But it is possible, with an earlier bedtime, that there may be an increase in latency to sleep onset by a few minutes and still a small increase in total night sleep duration. A few extra minutes of night sleep duration, over time, can have a major effect. It might take several days to observe this. My feeling is that it is not fair to wake a child from a nap (except for rare circumstances) because it makes him feel bad. Please let me know what you decide.

  8. We began the experiment 10 days ago on December 5th, this is his sleep log for the experiment. I discovered that he CAN actually fall asleep in the evening even if he hasn’t been awake for > 5 hours. However, on day 3 of the experiment, he woke at 4:30 am (mom was away and dad unable to soothe back to sleep). In the intervening week, there have only been 2 days without a night waking. This is not totally unprecedented. Just before Thanksgiving he had a bout of night waking as well, but this is the longest its gone on. We’ve not woken him from a single nap in that time and he’s only slept past 2pm 4 times.
    Interested to hear your thoughts on the new onset of night waking.
    Day 1:
    Wake 6:45a (TST 11h15m)
    Nap 11:30a-1:10p
    Sleep: 6:44pm

    Day 2:
    Wake 7:05a (TST 12h21m)
    Nap 11:50a-2:59p
    Sleep: 7:23pm

    Day 3
    Wake 6:05a (TST 10h42m)
    Nap 10:58a-1:47p
    Sleep: 7:05pm – woke @ 5:30 crying, soothed back to sleep

    Day 4:.
    Wake 6:40a (TST 11h35m)
    Nap 11:10a-1:30p
    Sleep: 7:32pm

    Day 5:
    Wake 4:28a (TST 8h56m)
    Nap 10:33a-1:17p
    Sleep: 6:46pm – woke @ 4:30 crying, soothed back to crib did not fall back asleep until 6a

    Day 6:
    Wake 7:05a (TST 10h46m)
    Nap 11:27a-2:12p
    Sleep: 6:56pm – (mom and dad gone, woke @ 4, no intervention fell back asleep by 5:30a)

    Day 7:
    Wake 6:56a (TST 11h53m)
    Nap 11:22a-1:57p
    Sleep: 6:53pm – woke @ 2am crying, soothed back to crib, fell right asleep

    Day 8:
    Wake 6:44a (TST 11h51m)
    Nap 11:42a-2:32p
    Sleep: 7:18pm – no night waking

    Day 9
    Wake 5:55a (TST 10h37m)
    Nap 11:31a-2:43p
    Sleep: 7:12pm – no night waking

    Day 10:
    Wake 6:35a (TST 11h23m)
    Nap 11:01a-1:07p
    **received 2 vaccinations**
    Sleep: 6:55pm – woke @ 4:30 crying, soothed back to crib most likely rolled around for 1+ hours, woke @ 7:30am

    1. I do have some specific observations, but first please clarify some points:
      On 12/5, I wrote: “I suggest that for 5-10 days, rigorously use a bedtime of 6:30pm. Observe the latency to sleep onset, the duration of night sleep and day sleep. During this trial, do not cap the naps. I know this might sound crazy, but your happy boy might even appear happier, especially in the late afternoon and early evening.” Did you use the 6:30 bedtime? Was there any difference in his mood or behavior in the late afternoon or any difference in latency to sleep onset during this trial? How do you feel about not capping his naps during the trial. What is the significance to your discovery that “I discovered that he CAN actually fall asleep in the evening even if he hasn’t been awake for > 5 hours.” It appears that he awoke on Day 3, 5, and 6 but not on the other nights (ignoring Day 10) so I am unsure whether his current night waking is viewed as a problem or not because you wrote, “In the intervening week, there have only been 2 days without a night waking.” Your clarifications might inform my observations.

  9. Apologies for the confusion. We have had him in the crib by 6:30 almost every night. There may have been 1 or 2 nights that it was closer to 6:45. Latency has not increased., usually between 10 and 30 minutes.

    Apologies for the typo, I’ve learned that he can fall asleep when he’s been awake LESS than 5 hours. Previously thought he needed to be awake at least 5+ hours before he would fall asleep in the evening. His mood has been good, but I’m not sure I would say it’s been remarkably better. I do like not capping his naps, especially since it doesn’t seem to push his sleep onset too much later, which was my main reason for capping.

    He’s actually woke at night on days 3,4,5,6,7 &10. We view it as a problem as he normally has no night waking and we do not want to get up to comfort him every night.

    Hope that clarifies.

    1. Thank you.
      My specific comment is: Look closely at Day 5. He wakes up early (4;28am), takes a great nap that ends at 1:17pm. Because his schedule on that day is shifted early, I think that a 5:30 lights out falling asleep time might have helped him sleep better that night.
      My general comment: The earlier bedtime did not increase the latency to sleep onset. Therefore, because there is still some night waking, for only 3-5 nights, try an even earlier bedtime (5:30-6:00pm) to see. if he falls asleep earlier. Are you OK with this?
      Remind me, how old is he now? Should you do extinction at night?

  10. Thank you! He’s just over 19 months (18 adjusted). We don’t feel extinction is necessarily in order yet as he has demonstrated consistent ability to self soothe under normal circumstances. We will try for earlier bedtimes until the night waking ceases. But very successful experiment for cessation of nap capping!

    1. Understood.
      Currently, when he awakens at night, do you go to soothe him? If so, he might develop a night waking habit.

  11. Merry Christmas!

    Its been a rough few weeks for us. I feel as if he began having these sleep disturbances (night waking and waking before 6am) after we began this experiment of no nap capping and an earlier bedtime. Not sue if its a coincidence or not. Regardless, his mood has been great even into the evening. The only time his mood is off is when he has a short nap (<2h). We have triend extinction as well as soothing for the night waking, doesn't seem to make a difference. We've finally had 2 consecutive days with no night waking and no very early waking. Hopeful that this is him settling down and not just a consequnce of busy stimulating days around Christmas.

    We have been putting him in his crib between 6 and 6:30 at the latest. His sleep latency has not increased. Have not capped any naps.

    Sleep Log:
    Day 11:
    Sleep 6:47pm Wake 5:55 (TST 11h)
    Nap 11:06a-1:28p
    Sleep: 7:03pm

    Day 12
    Wake 5:20 (gave paci w/o picking up, he never went back to sleep, TST 10h17m)
    Nap 10:03a-11:50a
    Sleep 6:01pm, no night waking

    Day 13
    Wake 5:55am (TST 11h 54m)
    Nap 10:40a-1:12p
    Sleep 6:33pm, no night waking

    Day 14
    Wake 6:09am (TST 11h 36m)
    Nap 11:51a-1:53p
    Sleep 6:44pm, no night waking

    Day 15
    Wake 5:30am (TST 10h 46m)
    Nap 11:00a-1:35p
    Sleep 6:56pm, no night waking

    Day 16
    Wake 6:34am (TST 11h 38m)
    Nap 11:20a-1:27p
    Sleep 7:01pm, Woke @ 4:30 crying did not intervene went back to sleep, woke @5:20 crying on and off x30min went in to soothe fell back asleep 6:30

    Day 17
    Wake 7:14am (TST 11h 11m)
    Nap 11:39a-2:02p
    Sleep 7:22pm, no night waking

    Day 18
    Wake 5:44am (TST 10h 22m)
    Nap 10:50a-12:08p
    Sleep 6:15pm, no night waking

    Day 19
    Wake 5:15am (TST 11h)
    Nap 10:27a-12:34p
    Sleep 6:42pm, no night waking

    Day 20 (*Christmas Day*)
    Wake 6:42am (TST 12h)
    Nap 11:40a-1:49p
    Sleep 6:45pm, no night waking

    Wake 7:21 (TST 12h 35m)

    We look forward to your thoughts.

    1. The log shows many wake-ups around or after 6:00am and most nights with no night waking so I am confused when you wrote (above), “We’ve finally had 2 consecutive days with no night waking and no very early waking.” Also, previously you indicated that stopping nap capping did not make sleep worse, but your comments above, “I feel as if he began having these sleep disturbances (night waking and waking before 6am) after we began this experiment of no nap capping…” indicates that things got worse with the cessation of nap capping. Please clarify how you see the the pros and cons of early bedtimes and nap capping. Separately, is there any suggestion that his mood has improved in the late afternoon or early evening recently?

  12. Certainly! Since day 3 of the experiment we have not had two consecutive days with him waking at a normal-for-him time and no night waking. Previously he generally woke around 6:30am sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later. Waking at or before 6 is not usual and I characterize as very early waking. I don’t know if the lack of nap capping and earlier bedtimes have contributed to the early waking and intermittent night waking. They have coincided in this instance, but that doesn’t necessarily prove causation. Neither me nor my husband have noted any discernable improvment in his moods in the early evening.

    We like not capping his naps, as he doesn’t like to be woken (who does?). We are unsure however if the earlier bedtimes have ultimately helped or hurt. Incidentally, there has been only one day (days 11-20) where his nap ended anywhere near 2pm (which is the previous nap-capping cutoff) and three days where he woke substantially earlier. In general his sleep seems to be much more irregular with the earlier bedtime, which is why we were considering shifting it back closer to 7.

    1. On the one hand, because “We’ve finally had 2 consecutive days with no night waking and no very early waking.”, you might now want to stay the course for 3-5 more days to see if this improvement persists.
      On the other hand, some families get up early and are OK with their child getting up before 6am, but you wrote,”Waking at or before 6 is not usual and I characterize as very early waking.”, so perhaps, now, try 5-10 nights of a 7:00pm bedtime, as you suggested. Monitor latency to sleep onset, night wakings, morning wake-up time, timing and duration of naps, and mood/behavior in the late afternoon and early evening. A later bedtime usually does not produce a later wake-up time in infants who are taking two naps a day and often works in children who are not napping at all, but the shift to a later wake-up time might take several days or longer. For children, like your son, who need one nap a day, I don’t think you can predict what will happen. Of course, if the bedtime is way late, it will work but the price is long latency to sleep onset, sleep resistance, or impaired mood and behavior at the end of the day, or all of these items.
      With either plan, I suggest letting him nap as long as he wishes.
      Please let me know your thoughts.

  13. Thank you. In general would you recommend a set time to put him in the crib for his nap and night sleep regardless of when he wakes or how long he naps? Or adjust based on those factors?

    1. Regardless of when he wakes up, expect a nap to begin between 12-2pm and lasting 1-2 hours on most days. If you are attempting to make the wake-up time later, try 7:00pm for 5-10 nights. If you want to stay the course for a few more days, either stick with an early clock bedtime or alternatively, use drowsy signs to guide your choice of a bedtime.
      Does this answer your question?

  14. Thank you. Our son’s nap actually settled around 11am when he went down to one nap. My question is, if he regularly falls asleep by around 11:30 when he wakes at his usual time of 6:30, then if he wakes an hour earlier at 5:30am (like he unfortunately did today) should we shift his nap by an hour to 10 or 10:30 so he doesn’t become overtired?

    And similarly for bedtime. If it is at 7 when he normally wakes from a nap around 1:30/2, should we shift it earlier if he wakes up from his nap at 12:30? Or sleeps late on his nap until almost 3? Or keep bedtime at the same clock time regardless of when he wakes from his nap.

    1. I think the first step is to try to gradually delay the onset of his nap towards 12ish independent of his wake up time by extra soothing and distraction, even if he becomes slightly overtired. The quality of the nap partially depends on it being is synch with nap rhythms. Then the nap duration might be the same but the the restorative effect is greater. During this transition, I would suggest you gradually (small increments and slowly) attempt to delay the bedtime toward 7ish as long as he does not show much pre-sleep arousal. We don’t want him to get so overtired here that falling asleep or staying asleep becomes a problem. This shift in the bedtime may or may not be difficult; please go slowly. We are attempting to shift his nap and night sleep onset later to have a later wake-up time. Once the nap is successfully starting between 12-2pm, it will be easier to have a later bedtime. Be prepared that sometimes this attempt fails; perhaps more often in children closer to 12 months and is more successful in children closer to 24 months. Trying this for 5-10 days should give you a clear picture whether you are making progress or not. If not, abandon the effort for now. How does this sound?

  15. Interesting, so you feel strongly that his nap should start at noon rather than 11? We plan to shift his bedtime closer to 7 beginning this evening. Will try to delay nap time a bit. This will be difficult today with the very early wake up, but maybe tomorrow will be easier.
    Thanks.

  16. Hi Marc, I have a similar situation to Sam (who posted above) about my 10-week old son, born 1 week early:

    1) We implemented extinction starting around 6 weeks as well as bedtime routine. The baby seems to consistently fall asleep around 7:20 and cries for a few minutes every night before settling. He does do long stretches (longest was just over 7 hours) at night, but we are wondering why he still cries when placed in his crib at the end of bedtime routine. We’ve tried a few times to put the baby to bed earlier but he seems to treat that as a nap and wakes up after 30-45 minutes — then we have to do a “final” feed and put him back closer to 7:20 and he will go to sleep for the night.

    2) During the day we practice drowsy but awake and the baby: cries hard at first, eventually settles and falls asleep after ~10 minutes. The naps are consistently around 30 minutes. We try to extend the nap by baby wearing. In the late afternoon and evening, the baby refuses to nap in the crib and will cry for 20+ minutes. We usually resort to baby wearing for those naps which is not always successful. When we baby wear we do cap naps at 2 hours.

    1. When you did this, “We’ve tried a few times to put the baby to bed earlier”, what time did you begin the bedtime routine and when did he fall asleep?
      It is possible that because of “In the late afternoon and evening, the baby refuses to nap in the crib and will cry for 20+ minutes.” that this earlier bedtime attempt was still too late.
      Please give me some details regarding your attempts at early bedtimes and how he was napping on those days and I will try to help you.

  17. So I took a look through the logs and we actually didn’t try this as much as I thought 🤔
    The other day we did this: wake up at 6:30 (we try for 7 but he was fussing a lot). 1st nap at 7:30: 25 minutes in crib and then 1:12 extend through baby wear. 2nd nap at 10:30: Cried for 10 minutes, took 17 minutes to fall asleep, slept in crib for 30min, then tried to extend but he wouldn’t settle in the carrier. 3rd nap at 12:30: Straight in carrier for 2 hours. 4th nap at 3:30: straight in carrier for 1:15. Tried to get him to nap again at 530 but he just fussed until 630 without sleeping. We got him up and did bedtime routine. He took another 30 minutes to fall asleep at 730.

    We are going to try an early bedtime (including the routine), about an early earlier, for the next few nights and get back to you with how it goes.

    1. Because of the brief naps, 7:30pm bedtime is too late. Night sleep circadian rhythm develops around 6 weeks of age and nap rhythms later; so for now, your focus is on a much earlier falling asleep time at night. Do what ever you can to maximize day sleep and minimize crying. I suggest that you look at the different sleep solutions described in my book and pick one that comports with your values. Then, for the next 3-5 nights, do bathing, feeding, soothing and lights out at 5:30pm. No new nap starts after 3pm. The super early bedtime is temporary. How does this sound?

  18. Hello again 🙂 We’ve been practicing the early bedtime — although we have had some issues being consistent each night (past four nights baby was in the crib at 6:15, 5:45, 6:20, and 5:20 respectively). He does cry significantly less on the outset for night sleep but sometimes has a long time to fall asleep (~30 minutes). We are planning to continue with this and try to be more consistent over the next five days. We have noticed a significant improvement in how long he sleeps at night (around 8-8 1/2 hours) after falling asleep, and I’ve also noticed that he doesn’t stir/wake up as much during the night either (we have a video monitor and he used to wake frequently for a few minutes and then self-soothe back to sleep). I assume this means he is getting more consolidated and less fragmented night sleep! I believe he is also waking up more consistently between 7-7:30am in the morning — he used to wake us up first at 6 and then fuss for about an hour until we went in to get him.

    We have noticed that the naps are worse than before so wanted to check in — in the past we used to try to get him to down for his first nap between 30-60min of wake up time in the morning, but the past three days (since the early bedtime was implemented) if we put him down for this nap he fusses and cries and refuses to nap — we have also tried waiting longer, over 60 minutes but the baby seems so drowsy and fussy by that point that I’m not sure that is helping. I know we are trying to improve night sleep first, so we are continuing to use baby wearing (in a wrap) to get him to nap during the day. After the first nap fails, one of us will put him in the wrap and he will often nap for 2 hours. The rest of the day we still try the crib first for naps and sometimes are successful for around 30 minutes after which we extend with the wrap. Is it expected that the first nap will deteriorate before it gets better now that his night sleep is improving? And are we interfering with how long he wants to nap if we wake up from naps? For example, we usually wake him up after 2 hours of being asleep in the wrap, and we try to wake him around 4pm after his last nap so that he can get to bed by 5:30.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Because night sleep is improving, please be patient and naps will improve.
      Now, you might want to experiment with shortening the interval of wakefulness by 10-20 minutes before each nap to see if the naps are better.
      Now, or after several days more of good night sleep, you might want to focus on only the first nap: Think of this nap sort of like a continuation of night sleep. You wrote, ” in the past we used to try to get him to down for his first nap between 30-60min of wake up time in the morning, but the past three days (since the early bedtime was implemented) if we put him down for this nap he fusses and cries and refuses to nap.” My suggestion is try for 3-5 days, bathing, feeding, soothing, and putting down in the crib (hopefully drowsy, but awake) after 60 minutes of wakefulness and leaving him alone for 1 hour to see if he falls asleep. This is for the first nap only. Do this only if you feel comfortable doing it and can can commit to 3-5 days. For the rest of the day, follow your heart to maximize day sleep and minimize crying. Please read the section “Nap Drill’ in my book for more details on handling this first nap. How does this sound?

  19. Posting another update!

    For night sleep, we are still working with an early bedtime. We know we’ve hit the right time when there is minimal cry/fuss when we leave the room and he goes to sleep in 15 minutes or less. I’ve noticed a definite improvement in the baby’s temperament during the day, especially 4-5pm as a result of him getting more sleep! He used to also yawn after 30 minutes of being awake but no longer does that either. We also noticed that if the bedtime goes well (early and very little fussing) then he is able to have 2 crib naps the subsequent day!

    For naps, we’ve been following your advice about the first nap: getting baby back to his crib at 60 minutes after wake up time. This is working well, although he has yet to sleep more than 33 minutes for this nap. But he does fall asleep fairly fast and with minimal fussing. Based on the book, we should try to move this nap closer to 9 over time. How do you recommend doing that? Increments of 5 minutes every few days or something? Do we need to wait until he is a bit older (baby is nearly 12 weeks but born 1 week early)?

    1. It seems to me that you have accomplished a lot of improvement in a very short time. Do you agree?
      I agree with your suggestion to slowly and gradually attempt to move the morning nap towards about 9am. Your success will depend on maintaining a super-early bedtime to erase morning drowsiness. He is improving his self-soothing skills (“he does fall asleep fairly fast and with minimal fussing.”) so be very optimistic and patient.
      Monitor closely exactly what occurs when “the bedtime goes well (early and very little fussing) then he is able to have 2 crib naps the subsequent day!” so that the event occurs more frequently and becomes a routine. Perhaps it depends on an extra earlier bedtime.
      Nap rhythms begin to show around 3-4 months in many babies but regular and long mid-morning and midday naps fully develop around 4-6 months. Because the midmorning nap develops first, stay focused on that nap and simply try to keep the intervals of wakefulness brief before subsequent naps. Does this help?

  20. Hello again! I wanted to reach back out as we have seen some improvements but also have some new questions. We’ve been doing an early bedtime (between 5-6pm, based on drowsy signs) for 3 weeks now. There’s very little to no fussing when we put him down. The past 7 nights, the baby has woken up before midnight, which didn’t happen for at least a month before that — this interrupts his long stretch and causes 2 wake-ups overnight for feeding. Do you know why that might be? I’ve also noticed a longer time to sleep (closer to 15-20 minutes instead of 5-10 minutes) after being placed in his crib — does that mean he is well-rested or overtired?

    For naps, we’ve been practicing the nap drill for nap 1, moving closer and closer to 9. The baby is a lot less drowsy initially and able to stay up a bit later every day. We just made it to 9 today for the first time. However, for the past 8 days, the nap itself never lasts for 30 or more minutes. Subsequent naps in the crib are possible (30-40 minutes usually) and we can sometimes extend these naps by baby wearing, however he is a lot less settled in the wrap now than ever before — is that because he is too tired? Or because he prefers to nap in his crib? We average about 3.25-4.5 hours of naps each day but the ones in the carrier are a lot less consolidated than the crib naps from what we can tell.

    I’ve also noticed a consistent pattern of him waking up from night sleep between 7-7:30pm after being asleep for 1h+. He doesn’t cry or anything but does take 10-15min to self-soothe back to sleep. Is there a reason that happens so consistently?

    1. How old is he now?
      Please describe the drowsy signs that you observe before the bedtime and when they occur. How often is the bedtime 5ish versus 6ish?

  21. He’ll be 14 weeks on Tuesday (born a week early though). Drowsy signs in the evening — becoming more still/less active, more dazed. Then we do massage, book, swaddle, crib which is about 15 minutes or 20 minutes if we need to also do a bath first.
    The bedtimes (when he is placed in crib) for the last 9 days: 5:25, 5:30, 5:45, 6 (he was upset this night so we were too late), 5:40, 5:45, 5:35, 5:20, 5:15.

    1. “The past 7 nights, the baby has woken up before midnight, which didn’t happen for at least a month before that — this interrupts his long stretch and causes 2 wake-ups overnight for feeding.”
      Is it possible that recently your breast milk supply is low? One clue might be that you are thirsty more recently or maybe recently you have been extra busy or stressed?

  22. We theorized that as well but I think the supply is the same based on — number of diapers (same as always), length and number of feeds (same as usual), weight gain (a little lower than first 1-7 weeks but still normal according to doc). I am definitely thirsty but that is also the same as usual 😀 And just as busy/stressed as usual too 😉 To test the theory earlier this week we tried feeding him a few more times during the day/before bed and he did drink but it did not stop the number of wake ups during the night nor the unsettled naps in the carrier. We do have another appt soon and can confirm with the doc then as well about this!

  23. Hello, wanted to follow up after last comment — we did have a decreased milk supply but things have stabilized again. However, we are still having a lot of sleep issues, specifically ones that we worked through before but have cropped back up: two night wakings, crying before naps and sometimes after naps, sometimes yawning after 30 minutes of being awake. We are still practicing early bedtime (in the crib between 5:15-5:45) every night and there is no witching hour. We are also still trying to do the nap drill but wondering if it’s actually just making things worse right now as he is just too tired to figure it out. Should we drop the nap drill and just focus on night sleep again, maximizing day sleep however possible?

    1. “Should we drop the nap drill and just focus on night sleep again, maximizing day sleep however possible?” Yes.
      I often encourage parents to take a break when sleep is still rough after a trial, recharge their batteries, and try again in the future.
      In general, how would you describe his behavior and mood in the morning immediately after awakening? What is his common start the day time? After awakening, what’s a common interval of time before he begins to show drowsy signs?

  24. Behavior and mood in the morning: happy, calm, smiling. His wake up is 7am. Recently it has been tough with the drowsy signs in the morning — it’s 45-1 hour until we see red eyebrows and more stillness. He does get fussy pretty fast as well.

    1. “Behavior and mood in the morning: happy, calm, smiling.” suggests that night sleep is restorative and going well; please stay the course with a super early bedtime.
      “drowsy signs in the morning — it’s 45-1 hour until we see red eyebrows and more stillness.”: consider doing the ‘nap drill’ only for the first nap of the day and do everything needed during the 45-60 minutes after the wake-up time. The remainder of the day: do whatever works to maximize day sleep and minimize crying.

  25. We will try that! One other question — Do you recommend “never wake a sleeping baby” for naps? So if baby is napping in the wrap, just let him nap until he naturally wakes up? With the caveat that if he only sleeps for like 30 min we try to extend the nap and have him fall back asleep.

    1. “Do you recommend “never wake a sleeping baby” for naps?” In general, except when trying to fix a sleep schedule problem, let your baby sleep.
      “if he only sleeps for like 30 min we try to extend the nap and have him fall back asleep.” I think that this is worthwhile if you often succeed, but if it rarely works, forget it.

  26. Hello again! Baby is 19 weeks (1 week early) today. We started a couple weeks trying the nap drill again (increasing from 60 minutes to 75 minutes then 90 minutes). We are currently getting him into his crib at 8:30 with a 15 minute soothe before. Baby consistently naps during this time but never for more than 32 minutes. For the rest of the day we are doing crib naps – some have gone longer than 30 minutes, up to 55 minutes (but those are rare), usually hitting 45 minutes. He takes 2 naps after nap 1 consistently then sometimes takes a fourth but it often fails (this nap usually happens around 2pm and lasts for 5-10 minutes max). Then we either have a baby up for 2-3 hours before bedtime (usually 5 or 5:15) or we get an awkward late nap in the stroller or car for 20 minutes and baby is still only able to last until 5:30 latest. The baby is also showing drowsy cues between his naps at the 50-60 minute mark. Usually he falls asleep fairly quickly for naps (within 5 minutes of being put in his crib). We have tried making the interval of wakefulness before the failing nap longer and shorter and are not sure what the issue is.

    Our questions:
    Is it normal for a baby this age to only last 1 hour between naps?
    Is the nap failing in the late afternoon because it’s not following his nap rhythm?
    When can we expect the first nap to lengthen? Do we need to get much closer to 9?

    Thanks!

    1. Please describe his usual night sleep pattern:drowsy but awake, parental presence after being put down, latency to sleep onset, fall asleep time, number of night awakening, total time awake at night, number of feedings, and wake-up time.
      Other than feeds, do you respond to him at night?

  27. Night sleep is going very well! We put baby down drowsy but awake (after 15-20 minutes of bedtime routine) in his crib and then leave the room. Baby usually falls asleep within 5-10 minutes. Baby wakes up for one feed between 2-3am and is awake for 30-35 minutes. We do not respond to him at night for anything other than feeds.

    1. Nap rhythms mature between 4-6 months of age so that by 6 months, 80% of infants (20% might take longer; maybe these are post-colic infants) have a nap mid morning around 9am and a mid-day nap between 12-2pm. Each nap is 1-2 hours long. Some infants have a 3rd nap in the afternoon, but this nap tends to be brief, and/or irregular. This is your expectation and you should be optimistic because your child has self-soothing skills, great night sleep, and you provide opportunities for naps. Around 4 months of age, brief intervals of wakefulness makes sense and around 6 months of age, a nap schedule makes sense because the underlying nap rhythm is better developed. Your infant is about 5 months old. Because the first nap develops before the second nap and he has great night sleep, I suggest that, for the next few weeks, try to get the first nap to start around 9am, but for the remainder of the day, the strategy might be brief intervals of wakefulness and nap timing is based on drowsy signs.
      How does this sound?

  28. Hello! Just wanted to reach out and let you know that we succeeded in establishing the 3 nap schedule! Today baby woke up at 7, napped at 9 for 1.5 hours, then napped just before 1 for 1.75 hours, then had a 30 minute nap just before 4, then night sleep started at 6:30. This was the most sleep he’s ever had during the day in his crib so we are very happy! And he was such a happy baby all day, not rubbing his eyes or fussy in the slightest. Thanks very much for all your help answering our questions! Looking forward to many more days like these.

    1. Please consider writing a narrative story detailing your child’s sleep journey that you could post here and I would use as a Blog Post. Your voice would resonate with mothers more than mine.

  29. Hello Dr Weissbluth!

    I have a near 13 month old son, who is a wonderful night sleeper and generally very happy baby (thanks to you!). He goes to sleep around 6:30 and wakes up between 6:30 and 7 a.m. 98% of the time.

    However, we have a nap problem. He’s always been a relatively short napper (30-90 minutes, more often 30 minutes – e.g. 75% of the time). We seem to be going from 2 naps to 1 (second nap often difficult / impossible to get him down, and if he takes it, 6:30 bed time becomes 7 p.m. and is a struggle).

    We’ve pushed the morning nap back to around 11 a.m. He generally wakes up after 30 minutes hysterical. Most of the time, he’s tired and will immediately collapse on you, and if you hold him, he will fall back asleep. He will generally wake up if you try to put him back in his crib and protest. If you let him sleep on you, he will sleep another 60-90 minutes (for 90-120 mins total day sleep).

    So, it seems like genetically he might be pre-disposed to short naps, but given he sleeps ON a parent if you let him, I question if this is true. What is the best way to test and train him into one long nap? Extinction? This wasn’t a huge problem with two naps because he’d get 60-120 mins of day sleep on top of his 12/12.5 night hours, but now that we’re down to one nap, 30 mins isn’t enough and you can see it in his temperament for the rest of the day.

    Thank you for your help!

    1. What are the common times that he actually falls asleep at night?
      Please describe his mood and behavior during the hour before bedtime when he is alone with toys (no screens or parental involvement).

  30. He’s generally asleep by 6:30 pm, 6:45 at the latest (we start bedtime at 6). He eats dinner at 5, then we play from 5:30 to 6 and he’s generally happy and energetic. Sometimes perhaps a little over-energetic / enthusiastic.

    1. “Sometimes perhaps a little over-energetic / enthusiastic.” suggests pre-sleep arousal. Please clarify, what time do you actually leave the room? Is it always 6PM?
      Please read Blog Posts 171-173.

  31. I read posts 171-173, so the answer seems to be “move the bedtime earlier?” 🙂

    I leave the room sometime between 6:20 and 6:30. He’s always asleep by 6:30 – 6:45 at the latest. He generally doesn’t protest me leaving and quietly puts himself to sleep.

    1. I suggest that you try for 3-5 nights only, a temporary 5:30pm expected falling asleep time (you have bathed, fed, and soothed him and are leaving the room, lights out at 5:30pm). Monitor latency to sleep onset, wake up time, mood and behavior, and naps. Over time, if naps improve, then the bedtime will be a bit later (perhaps 6:00 but maybe not 6:45pm). How does this soundd?

    1. “We are doing temporary 6:45PM bedtimes for her to try to makeup for lost sleep. (Previously 7:30PM bedtime and always slept until 7:30AM).” Please read about cumulative sleepiness to understand why the old 7:30pm bedtime might have caused your current problem. Your observation, “She also seems more tired immediately preceding bedtime (she’s even verbalized on a couple occasions “Mama, I’m tired.”)” suggests that currently, 6:45 is still too late. I suggest a temporary strict 6:30pm expected fall asleep time (she has beeen fed, bathed, soothed and you are leaving her, lights out, at 6:30pm). Hopefully, naps will become regular and depending on their timing and length, later, the. bedtime might be around 7:00pm but not 7:30pm. How does this sound? By the way, does she understand consequences? ‘Sleep Rules’ are generally useful for toddlers around 2 1/2 years.

  32. Hello! I’m the anonymous poster from the post above your last one. Leaving my name here for clarity. We got the bedtime moved back to 6 p.m. in general, and did 3 nights of 5:30 bedtime (I left the room at 5:30 promplty). Earlier bedtime didn’t really get him to sleep any earlier – he would fall asleep between 6:05 and 6:15 (just amused himself quietly). With a 6 p.m. bedtime, he’s asleep by 6:15-6:25. So almost the same outcome.

    Sadly, naps have not improved. We’re still getting 30 minutes mostly, sometimes 45. Now that bedtime is earlier and we’ve attempted the temporary early bedtime with no nap improvements, do we chalk this up to genetic short napper? Or is there anything else we can do to try to get longer naps out of him?

    1. Please read Blog Post 6 to better appreciate why a 10-20 minute longer duration night sleep might be worthwhile even if naps have not improved. Would a white noise machine or blackout curtains help with naps? What time does he usually awaken in the morning and when do you usually put him down for a nap (the expected falling asleep time, lights out, you are leaving the room)? How is his mood and behavior during the hour before you begin your nap routine?

  33. Definitely appreciate the earlier bedtime and will stick to it. We have a white noise machine and pretty good blackout curtains (not full black ones, but pretty good ones). He wakes up generally between 6:15 and 6:45 in the morning. His first nap is usually sometime between 10:30 and 11 (that’s when we leave the room). Mood and behavior – sometimes yawning a little, but otherwise nothing noticeable in terms of behavior (e.g., not over-energetic, not agitated, not over-tired seeming).

    1. Currently, is he taking a single nap all the time or if not, how often does he take a second nap?
      If he takes a second nap, please describe the usual timing and duration.

  34. We’ve moved back into two naps for the time being (had been showing signs of dropping a nap, e.g., we couldn’t get him down for a second), but he’s gone back to going down for two. The second is usually around 3 p.m. and is only 30 minutes.

    1. Because of his age, I suggest that you consider the following:
      Simultaneously,
      Eliminate the 2nd nap. He may require extra soothing attention around 4-5pm.
      Temporarily move the bedtime, expected falling asleep time to 5:30pm (feeding, bathing, and soothing are done and you are leaving the room-lights out at 5:30pm)
      More sleep at the front end allows you to gradually delay his now single nap to 12-1pm. This may take days or weeks. Please go slowly.
      When, and only when, the single nap is well established mid-day, based on the timing of the nap, the nap duration, physical activity during the day, and drowsy signs, the bedtime might now be later(5:30-6:30pm but not 6:30-7:30pm because his day sleep is now less than what it was when younger and taking 2 naps per day)
      How does this sound?

  35. This sounds good. He actually refused a second nap yesterday after taking a ~60 minute nap earlier in the day, so I think it’s where he’s headed naturally. He was in bed by 5:30, asleep by 5:45. I did all that without having read this message, but knew we had to make up on the front end and that he wouldn’t last until his normal 6 p.m. bedtime.

    When you say delay the single nap to 12-1 do you mean put him down at 12 and hope for a 60 min nap to 1 pm? And do you recommend eating lunch before or after?

    1. Slowly move the nap toward the mid-day. Expect a single midday nap to be 1-2 hours in duration. Feed him when he is hungry.

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