Sleep breeds sleep, right? Every single time I am asked for help with night time sleep, the first thing I ask is how they are sleeping during the day. Because day time sleep plays such a huge role in night time sleep, and if your nap schedule is good, its going to be so much easier to fix issues surrounding night time sleep. So this week we’re looking at how your baby’s naps affects night time sleep, with a view to finally pinpointing the things that you can do to make improvements.
Three ways that your baby’s naps affect sleep at night
There are usually three ways that your baby’s naps can affect sleep at night, and usually by eliminating this issue, you can see almost instant improvements with night time sleep. So what are they?
Your baby is napping too much
Usually, when a baby starts to wake in the night, or ridiculously early in the morning, I’ll want to know about naps. And many times it turns out that cutting down either the length of the naps, or dropping one altogether can make a real difference. Newborns and younger babies aside, older babies should have a pretty regular nap schedule that you can keep a track of. Some from around four or five months old, your baby should start to show patterns of sleep during the day that you can build a schedule around. When this happens, it can be easy for some babies to actually nap a little too much during the day, and this in turn affects night time sleep.
If this is the case for you, take a look at how many naps your baby is taking each day. Maybe she got up so early that she was exhausted by midmorning and took a nap? Then bedtime seemed a long way off, so when she fell asleep again later that afternoon you didn’t argue? The problem here being that all that daytime sleep is going to mean another restless night or early morning! So what to do?
If your baby doesn’t usually have two naps, instead of that second nap, try bringing bedtime forward a little, and gradually move it back again ten minutes every other night until bedtime is back at the usual time. If your baby does still take two naps a day, it right be time to drop one of them. Read this post for info on how to do that.
Your baby isn’t napping enough
So from too much day time sleep, to too little. We can’t win! But a baby who doesn’t sleep enough is going to be over tired, irritable and fussy. And that means she’s going to be more likely to wake at night and more likely to find it hard to even settle in the first place. Not enough day time sleep is the most common issue for families and there are so many babies out there who constantly fight sleep at bedtime. What to do?
Prioritise naps. Make sure you have a good nap schedule that works for you and make sure you stick to it. If you can be at home for naps, especially the first one, then do. The first nap of the day is the most restorative and therefore the most important. If your baby wakes earlier than usual from their nap, or even misses a nap then you may need to bring bedtime forward a little. Play it by ear and let your baby be your guide.
Your baby’s going through a nap transition
Nap transitions can be hard work! And when you’re in the middle of one your well executed schedule can seem like nothing but a distant memory. But fear not, and repeat after me: This too shall pass. Because it will. And you can help it pass as smoothly as possible too.
Nap transitions usually take place around three months, five months, nine months, 15 months and 18 months. Your baby will go from four to five naps per day, down to just one. So from newborn to 18 months you can expect a lot of changes to your routine. By the time your little one is four years old, naps will most likely be long forgotten, but in the time between then and now you’ll need your wits about you!
You can tell a nap transition is on the way, because your baby may start to suddenly refuse to sleep when she used to. Before that, your baby’s routine may start to change as she figures out when and how much sleep she actually needs. This can be frustrating, because just as you think you have a routine you can work with, it all changes! And for some this can seem like a constant occurrence. In addition, your baby may also change the length of time she sleeps for too. What can you do? Not a lot. Go with the flow. Depending on your baby, you might want to go straight in and change your routine completely, swiftly guiding your baby into a new one that works just as well. Or you might want to take things a little more slowly, easing your baby into a new routine gradually and with minimal disruptions.
During a nap transition, night time sleep can be affected, but rest assured they are normal and they won’t last forever.