This is one of the most frequently asked questions we get! Short naps (anything under 60 minutes but typically 30-45 minutes) can really feel like the bane of parent’s lives. The ideal nap length is at least 2 cycles long (90 minutes in a perfect world)! We all know that little ones need to nap in order to be happy and content when they’re awake, but what if they just can’t sleep for longer than 30-45 minutes at a time?
It’s usually down to one of 4 reasons:
- Over tiredness: If your baby is going down for their nap overtired (i.e., they’ve had too much awake time before the nap) they will find it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep. This is due to them having built up a lot of adrenaline during the awake window in order to stay awake which then leaves them feeling ‘wired’ when they should be sleepy, meaning they will struggle to drop into the next sleep cycle as they are feeling restless. This often leads to them suddenly waking up after 1 cycle and feeling very cross about this! So, if your baby is waking up after 30-45 minutes very upset, it is likely overtiredness causing this. Try shortening their awake windows (details of the age appropriate awake windows can be found here.
- Under tiredness: If your little one is taking a long time to fall asleep, but not necessarily overly upset during this process, plus then waking up after 30-45 minutes happy and content, this indicates that they didn’t have enough sleep pressure built up before then nap for them to be able to link their sleep cycles. Simply put, they just weren’t tired enough to need a longer nap! Try increasing their awake windows to see if a little extra sleep pressure helps them to sleep for longer.
- Environment: It’s important that you try to ensure the room your little one naps in is as dark as possible so that they aren’t stimulated by what they can see around them when they come to the edge of their first sleep cycle. A Gro-blind can be useful for making rooms dark during the day. If you need to be out and about for a nap, try a Snoozeshade for your buggy – it can help to block out the excitement of the hustle and bustle of daytime! In terms of noise, if you notice that your house isn’t overly consistent in terms of noise levels during the day, or night for that matter (noisy neighbours, busy roads, builders working in the neighbourhood, dogs barking etc), consider using white noise. This can really help to create a consistent environment for your little one to nap in – as long as it is on constantly throughout the time they are asleep, and not on a sensor or timer.
- Independent sleep skills: Perhaps the trickiest to navigate out of all the possible reasons for short naps, is if your little one relies on something external to get to sleep. If your little one feeds to sleep or is rocked to sleep for naps for example, they will need that support to be able to drop into the next sleep cycle. So, if they have been fed to sleep for a nap and you are then able to transfer them into the cot, they will probably wake up from their first cycle and expect to be where they were when they initially fell asleep, and then be very upset about this! Of course, if contact naps work for you then great! Carry on – if it aint broke don’t fix it! However, if you’re finding that this is unsustainable for you as a family, it may be time to start working on those independent sleep skills so that your little one isn’t ‘reliant’ on you to put them to sleep for every occasion.
If you’re struggling with short naps, or have any concerns about your little one’s sleep, please do get in touch – we would love to help you.