5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Resolve Short Naps
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
The only difference between their baby [who can nap for 2 hours] and your baby is…their baby has learned how to fall back to sleep on their own.
Why Short Naps Are So Frustrating
Not restorative: Because short naps are not equally as restorative as longer naps, babies who take cat naps will wake up still be tired and fussy.
Cause night wakings: Poor naps can derail night sleep and often affect your child's sleep for the next 24 hours. Day and night sleep are linked and equally important.
Cause early morning wakings: Insufficient day sleep can cause night sleep to cut short, which means a child may wake at 5am, ready to start their day.
Anxiety: Parents who know their child needs more sleep for proper growth and development often find short naps stress inducing.
Scheduling issues: Planning ahead becomes merely impossible when a baby's cat naps get in the way.
Short Nap Scenario
Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar…
Your baby wakes up in the morning after a solid night’s sleep. You feed her, change her, play with her for a little bit, take her for a little walk outside, then rock her to sleep and put her gently into her crib for her morning nap.
And then, 30 minutes later, she wakes up fussy and irritable and, despite your pleading, bargaining, and offers of riches, refuses to go back to sleep.
So after half an hour of trying to put her back down, you finally give in, hoping she’ll be that much more tired when her afternoon nap rolls around, only to have the exact same scenario play out again. You get another short nap and baby is a cranky ball of unhappiness for the rest of the day.
Why Are My Baby's Naps So Short?
Babies, just like the rest of us, have varying stages of sleep called sleep cycles. We start off in a light state where we’re easily woken up, then gradually fall into a deeper stage where even loud noises or movement might not be able to rouse us. This, incidentally, is the good stuff. This is the really rejuvenative, restful sleep where our brains and bodies do all of the maintenance work that leaves us refreshed, clear-headed and energetic when we get enough.
Once we’ve come to the end of the deep-sleep cycle, we slowly start coming back to the light stage again, and typically we wake up for a few seconds and then drift off again, and the whole thing starts again.
In adults, one of those cycles typically takes about an hour and a half. In babies, it can be as little as 30 minutes. So the fact that your baby is waking up after only 30 minutes is actually completely natural. In fact, if she wasn’t waking up regularly, that might be cause for concern.
“But,” you’re thinking, “I have friends whose babies nap for two or three hours at a time.” Well, that’s partially true. But in a more literal sense, they’re stringing together several sleep cycles in a row. The only difference between their baby and your baby is…
Their baby has learned how to fall back to sleep on their own.
That’s it. That really is the heart of the issue. Once your baby can fall asleep without help, they’ll start stringing together those sleep cycles and give you longer naps! That’s going to make your baby a whole lot happier and, on the self-indulgent side, leave you with two hours at a time to do whatever you like. (Granted, as a new mother, “whatever you like” might not mean what it once did, but still, two hours twice a day to catch up on motherhood-related tasks is something we can all appreciate.)
Ask Yourself These 5 Questions If Your Baby is Pinned Down With Short Naps
Solving a chronic short napper can be frustrating to say the least. Here are my top five questions that might be able to point you in the right direction of getting baby to nap longer.
Tired enough? Was my baby's awake window age appropriate, being long enough so baby is tired but not too long so baby is overtired?
Wind down time enough? Am I doing a consistent nap routine to help baby be primed for a good nap?
Sleep prop? Does my baby need me to put them to sleep or can they fall asleep independently?
Dark enough? For babies who struggle with naps, room environment is crucial; is the room dark enough to help your baby who's struggling with naps?
Last nap? Is the short nap usually the last nap of the day which is usually intended to be a cat nap to take the edge off so baby can sleep at an appropriate bedtime?
Is night sleep consolidate? BEST approach to getting longer naps is to first ensure night sleep is consolidated which then helps for naps to fall into place. It's proven and it's science!
Despite your best efforts, if your baby is still taking short naps, give me a call and set up a free 15 minute sleep assessment. The solution might be simpler than it appears, and most of my clients see a dramatic improvement in just one or two sessions.