Ah, don’t you just love toddlers? The way they keep us on our toes is just fantastic, ins’t it? Seriously though, toddlers are wonderful. Full of excitement, wonder and joy. Oh, and anger. There’s a lot of anger too. The perils of growing up, I guess. All of these things make toddlers so adorable, but let’s face it, they can also make sleep a bit of a battleground at times can’t they? So what to do if your toddler starts to refuse naps? Well, firstly don’t panic. And secondly, read my top five tips… Toddler sleep: dealing with nap refusals.
This means taking in the whole of what is going on for your toddler. Check:
- Day time routine. Does it need some tweaking? Is he waking more early/ late than usual? Do you need to move your nap time around a little? Or are you all over the place a little? Remember that a good, consistent day time routine is essential if you want to improve naps.
- Night time routine. Good day time sleep breeds good night time sleep, but maybe your night time routine needs a little work too. Make sure you spend enough time winding down before the bedtime routine, with quiet activities and very little noise etc. Stick to a consistent bedtime routine that will help your toddler feel secure.
- Is your toddler teething or unwell? Have there been some big changes in the home recently- potty training, a new baby, holidays etc. All of these things can affect sleep, so are worth considering.
- Is there a lot going on at home right now? Building work, extra visitors etc can all mean that naturally curious toddlers simply don’t want to settle down to sleep. Try to make things as calm and quiet as possible at nap time and limit visitors etc so that your toddler can sleep without fear of missing out.
- Is your toddler ready to drop a nap? *shudder* Or is he ready to have his naps cut a little shorter? You’d be surprised how many toddlers still need to sleep, but don’t need as much day time sleep as we think they do. Sometimes when families start to cut naps in length, they notice better night time sleep and a better overall routine begins to emerge for their toddler, with less early mornings etc. It might be time now to take a look at naps in general and how much sleep your toddler actually needs.
What nap refusal means for you
It’s all very well determining the cause of nap refusals, but what about you? How does this affect you and your day? If your toddler is not yet ready to drop a nap but still refuses to sleep during the day, it can quickly become a nightmare for parents. Overtired toddlers don’t respond well to, well, anything it seems! And they also find it hard to settle for bed at night time, so overall sleep is affected, meaning everyone ends up tired and grumpy. It’s hard work! So don’t suffer alone and in silence. Enlist the help of friends and family and is help is offered, take it. Toddlers can be exhausting, so there is no harm in taking a break now and then.
And when you’re feeling a little more refreshed (if thats possible) you need to come back with a plan of action.
- Make sure your nap routine is super polished and perfect. Just as your bedtime routine needs to work well, as does your nap time routine. You need your toddler to know that it is nap time, and that means sleep time. So spend some time setting the scene for sleep, wind down with quiet activities and cancel a few plans for a while if you need to. Focus on nap times, making the routine work, and getting back on track.
- Be flexible. It may be that today your toddler wants to nap for just 45 minutes, and tomorrow will nap for two hours. Ou might need to go with the flow a little here. Remember that 45 minutes is a good length nap for some toddlers so don’t sweat it. Simply adjust the rest of your routine for that day and go with it.
- Stay consistent. Nap time needs to be at the same time each day in order for your toddler to stick to a routine for daytime and night time. Napping too late might mean bedtime gets pushed back and the the whole of the next day will be out of routine too, creating a circle of confusion for all. If your toddler is refusing to settle and ends up sleeping later than usual you have two options. Either wake him at the usual time, or let him sleep and adjust the rest of the routine accordingly. As long as you are consistent and ok with a new bedtimes, then your toddler will know where he stands- and so will you.
- Use your gentle sleep techniques. If your toddler is refusing to nap but you know he is tired and needs to sleep, use the same techniques you would use at bedtime. Reassure him, and always go to him when he calls.
- If your toddler flat out refuses to sleep and doesn’t appear to be anywhere near ready to sleep… engage him in some quiet activities instead. Sometimes a rest is just as good as a nap, so have some quiet time activities ready on hand to use, and just accept that nap time is not going to happen today.
At the end of the day, its important to remember that naps don’t last forever. Eventually, all toddlers will begin to need less sleep during the day, and this is something that we as parents need to accept. Some toddlers will stop napping earlier than others, and if you feel all is ok with no day time sleep then, perhaps your time has come. Good luck!