Signs that it is Time to Transition from Two Naps to One

By: Jenn Kelner

It’s morning naptime and your toddler just doesn’t want to nap.  He was such a great napper before but now he plays in his crib the entire time.  Sometimes he falls asleep but it’s affecting his afternoon nap.   Does this mean he’s ready to transition from two naps to one?

Not necessarily.  He may be going through a developmental milestone, like crawling or walking, which is affecting his sleep during the day.  We don’t want to drop the morning nap prematurely if he is going to get through this milestone in a few weeks and go back to being a rock star napper.  Once you make the transition to one nap, it is much harder to go back to two!

Why do I want to keep both naps as long as possible?

The first thing that comes to mind is so that you can get things done!  Naptime is a great time to get some work done, get some exercise, or take a nap yourself.  But there are other important reasons to keep both naps.  According to Marc Weissbluth, M.D. in Happy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, not all naps are created equal.  The morning nap contains more REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is emotionally restorative sleep.  The afternoon nap contains more non-REM sleep, which is more physically restorative.  It’s important to preserve both naps as long as possible so that your little one can get the emotionally restorative sleep that he needs.

What are the signs that my child is ready to transition?

The majority of children drop the morning nap between 15 to 18 months of age.   Rather than go by their age, there are some keys signs that will indicate to you that your child is ready to transition from two naps to one:

  • Your little one is consistently playing through the morning nap, then taking their afternoon nap as usual;
  • Your child is consistently sleeping through the morning nap but then refuses the afternoon nap;
  • Your child is consistently falling asleep later than usual for the morning nap, which then causes the afternoon nap to occur later, which then delays bedtime.

The key word here is consistently.  Sometimes children will show these signs for a few days at a time, but then sleep well on the other days.  This could mean that your child is going through a developmental milestone, rather than ready to permanently drop the morning nap.

How do I ease the transition from two naps to one?      

Start off by offering only one nap at 11am, then every few days move the start time of the nap about 20 minutes later.  Continue moving the start time later until this single midday nap is now starting at 1pm.  By moving the start time of the nap in small increments every few days, you are allowing your child’s internal clock to adjust slowly making the transition easier.   During the transition, it’s important to implement an earlier bedtime to help your child stay well rested.  This is especially important if you needed to transition from two naps to one before your child was ready.  During the transition, just remember to be patient and stay attune to your child’s sleepy signs so that you know if they need more sleep than what they are currently getting.

Jenn Kelner is a mother of 3 children (including twins!) and a Certified Child Sleep Consultant at BabyZzz.  She helps tired families with infants, babies and toddlers become well rested families through customized sleep solutions and support.  She offers various services including home, phone/Skype and email consultations.  For more information visit www.babyzzz.ca

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