You probably have been sick and tired of wondering why your toddler won’t nap during the day. You’re not alone as this is a problem all mommas out there can relate to! Check out some expert-approved tips to help you deal with this challenge.
As you know very well, naps play a significant role in improving your kid’s mood, a.k.a. minimizing crying sessions, whining, and tantrums.
Your child’s nap schedule makes up for whatever sleep your toddler lost during the night, thus playing a key role in your child’s brain development and helping improve their attention span.
But how exactly do you get your toddler to take nap time so they can benefit from all that?
You’ve sung all the lullabies you can remember, counted sheep from 1 to 1,000, and still, NOTHING is happening, and your toddler is still fighting naps. At least, not with your toddler, who, at this point, is still very much wide awake while you’re trying your best not to fall asleep.
Now before you give up all hope, let’s talk about why your toddler doesn’t want a nap. That way, you can think of what you can do to woo them into taking that afternoon nap time they so stubbornly refuse.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t involve you having to do cartwheels or anything superhuman. (wink)
The not-so-long list of WHYs behind your toddler's NOs
Toddlers can be extra complicated at times. One moment they’re really docile and just playing happily in their little corners. The next, they’re screaming their lungs out, crying over whatnots, and flat out refusing to take a nap. If your toddler’s nighttime sleep schedule has already been thrown off its track, it will also affect his/her daytime routines.
Thankfully, child development experts have done their research to enlighten us on nap times (and why your child doesn’t want to take that afternoon nap), so we don’t have to figure things out ourselves.
Here’s a list of the most common reasons why your toddler won’t nap:
- They’ve already outgrown their current toddler nap schedule
- Their current naptime isn’t compatible with your kid’s biological clock
- You’re not being consistent with their daily nap schedule
- They’re just too tired to take a nap
- They’ve grown dependent on a sleeping aid
- They’ve been sneaking micro-naps when you’re not watching
- They’re not feeling well enough to take a nap
Now that you already know the possible culprits behind your toddler’s behavior, let’s look at what you can do to address each possible issue.
Problem # 1: Your toddler has outgrown their current nap schedule
As your child grows older, their needs also change. For example, has your toddler started daycare? Has your toddler learned to crawl or eat solid food? These changes may seem unrelated to naptime, but they impact how much rest their bodies need.
What you can do: Be attentive to telltale signs that indicate your toddler is tired, and adjust your child’s naps schedule accordingly.
It would be difficult (almost impossible) to get a toddler to sleep when they feel like playing. You have to wait until they’re feeling sleepy before bringing them to take a nap.
Problem # 2: Your toddler's current naptime isn't compatible with their biological clock
Like grownups, toddlers are sensitive to factors that affect their biological clocks. For example, too much exposure to light can affect their desire to take a morning nap. Active playtime in a brightly lit area just before naptime can also keep your toddler from falling asleep.
Most children are more likely to fall asleep in a dimly lit room. A darkened bedroom is ideal for your toddler’s sleep environment in the evening hours, particularly in the summer months when natural light can cause problems.
What you can do: Make sure to set the mood for naptime at least half an hour before getting your child to take a nap.
Problem # 3: Your toddler's daily naptime isn't consistent
Humans are creatures of habit. That being said, if you’re not being consistent with your toddler’s nap schedule, you’re going to have an extra tough time getting them to sleep when you want them to.
What you can do: Make naptime a habit for your toddler. Encourage them to wake up at the same time each morning, go to bed at the same each night, and take a nap at the same time within the day. Doing that will help your child adjust to their nap schedules and not resist taking a nap.
There are days when the situation wouldn’t allow your toddler to take a nap when they’re supposed to. In that case, try to have them fall asleep within 30 minutes of their usual naptime. This will ensure that you don’t break the routine you have established for them.
Problem # 4: Your toddler is just too tired to take a nap
Nope, we’re not just making this up. There is such a thing as “too tired to fall asleep,” and you’ve probably even tried this yourself.
Ever tried feeling so exhausted you want to fall asleep, but you can’t because you’ve stayed up too long past your bedtime? That can happen to your toddler too. Smoothing music is an entertaining way to help your child fall asleep.
Soothing music is enjoyable for kids and parents because it’s good for the soul. The best part about these songs is that they are gentle and make you feel relaxed, happy, and content.
What you can do: Keep an eye out for signs that your toddler is already exhausted, and get them to take a nap at this point. Putting their nap schedule off until later will only overtire them to the point that they wouldn’t be able to sleep anymore.
Problem # 5: Your toddler has grown dependent on a sleeping aid
Do you often lull your toddler to sleep by having them nap in your arms? Or does your toddler associate naptime with breastfeeding time, or probably bottle-feeding? If you answer YES to any of those questions, then that could be the reason why your toddler has difficulty sleeping under any other condition.
What you can do: If your toddler has associated naptime with a specific sleeping aid or location, try gradually breaking that association for a week. You want to establish a new naptime routine with them during that quiet time.
It’s going to be difficult at first, with a lot of tears in the background, but trust us, your toddler will eventually get used to the change.
Problem # 6: Your toddler has been sneaking micro-naps when you're not watching
Now you’re probably thinking, ‘That doesn’t sound like a problem to me.’ In fact, isn’t it great that they’re getting mini naps in between their regular activities? Well, no. It’s not really a good thing.
Micro-naps can keep your toddler from taking a real nap simply because their 5-minute shuteye has already stimulated their bodies enough to forget their need for an hour-long nap.
Unfortunately, these micro-naps can’t take the place of real naps, so you have to think of a way to keep your toddler from dozing off when it’s not yet their quiet time to take a nap.
What you can do: Don’t put your child in a sleep-inducing environment if it’s not yet their schedule for a real nap. Unless, of course, you can leave your toddler in that area undisturbed for a long time, then that should be okay.
Problem # 7: Your toddler is not feeling well enough to take a nap
Sometimes, toddlers have trouble sleeping because of a particular health issue. Two of the most common health problems among toddlers are allergies and asthma, and both of these can keep your toddler from sleeping comfortably. Other health issues may include teething, ear infections, fever, reflux, and colic.
Baby growth spurts can also cause poor sleep patterns for the toddler. See below to learn how you can help your toddler have good nights of sleep when he/she is dealing with health issues that are interfering with sleep.
Half-hour increments are suggested unless otherwise noted. The number of wake-ups may vary by child, but this should give you a rough guideline to follow.
What you can do: If you suspect that your toddler has an underlying health issue, make sure to reach out to your healthcare provider immediately so you’ll know how you can best address the issue.
In cases like these, any nap is better than no nap at all. Make sure your toddler falls asleep as often as possible throughout the day.
No matter the reason your toddler won’t nap, it’s best to keep these things in mind:
- Have your toddler enjoy a relaxing pre-nap routine
- Make sure that your toddler is in a sleep-inducing environment during naptime
- Adjust their nap time schedule based on their natural body clock
- Get your toddler to stick to a consistent naptime routine
Sure, you can’t force your child to sleep, but you definitely can make it easier for them to fall asleep faster. We hope you found the above tips helpful. Make sure to share them with a friend who needs to learn about these tips.