Toddler Sleep: How to Deal With Early Rising and Reducing Naps

toddlerThank you for all the great questions you are sending in!! Keep’ em coming!

This week I am combining two questions about transitioning from 2 naps to 1:

Our 19 month old son seems to be transitioning from 2 naps to 1 nap.  Are there any ways to make this easier?  Any tips to make the transition smoother?  He’s also waking up at 5 or 5:30a.m.   Are these signs of a transition? CT

I‘m trying to transition our 16-month old to one nap and finding it very difficult.  He was moving his morning nap later and later to where it was 10:30 am or later when he would go down and would sleep for 1.5 hours or a bit more.  He would need a short 2nd nap at 3:30 or so but I would wake him around 4 no matter what time he went down so I could keep his bedtime at 7.  Trying to switch to afternoon nap only, not going well.  He’s not sleeping long enough and is exhausted.  Its only been a week, should I continue this or go back to two naps?  Thanks!!  Jana

First let’s review the toddler sleep averages:

Average sleep needs for a 12 month old is 11.25 at night and 2.5 over 2 naps.

Average sleep needs for a 18 month old is 11.25 at night and 2.25 over 1 nap.

Below is a list of readiness signs for consolidating to one nap

-he’s 15 to 18 months old (later is not uncommon, earlier very rare)

-he’s sleeping through the night consistently- 10-11 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If he’s not, work on improving nighttime sleep before you tackle the nap change.

-he’s taking longer and longer–and longer–to fall asleep for the morning nap, or falling asleep easily for his morning nap but then waking up from it quite early, or sleeping for such a long time in the morning that he won’t take his afternoon nap (meaning you will have a very testy and overtired child by bedtime).

When looking at his daytime sleep schedule, remember you are looking for a consistent pattern. Don’t mistake one or two abbreviated mornings naps or skipped afternoon naps for the sign that he’s ready for the change.

If after reading this list you find you have started transitioning your toddler too early, you can return to 2 naps and keep the morning nap short, like 45 minutes, if you find that your toddler has trouble going down for her afternoon nap.

Tips for a smooth transition

-Make small changes each day for about 7-10 days. Push the morning nap later- first to 11am, then 11:30am, then 12noon etc.  Some toddlers you can push quickly to noon and others need the full week. Don’t get stuck in late morning.

-Move to the early afternoon schedule within 7-10 days.

-If she sleeps for only one hour and wakes up tired, which is common during the transition, try to soothe and resettle her back to sleep. If all else fails use one of your emergency backup nap techniques to get her some more sleep.

-Keep bedtime early- 7pm is the average. Remember, your toddler may be getting less sleep during this transition and needs an earlier bedtime.

-Be open to an occasional “two nap” day for catch up. Keep the morning nap short, about 45 minutes  so you can still put her down after lunch for the second nap. The next day, get back on the one-nap consolidation path.

-Get rid of the morning nap NOT the afternoon nap.

During this transition your child may start rising before 6:00am- especially if he already had a history of this. Here are some of the reasons why.

If your toddler wakes before 6:00am, he’s probably overtired. Overtired children don’t sleep as well, or sleep as long, as well-rested ones. He may be:

-Going to bed too late

-Not napping enough

-Staying up too long between the end of his afternoon nap and going to bed (try not to let it exceed 4 hours)

-Going to bed when he’s past that “drowsy but awake”  mark. If he’s too drowsy, he won’t know how to get himself back to sleep when he’s more alert–including at 5:00a.m.

Remember to keep bed time early during the transition from 2 naps to 1 and be consistent about not getting your toddler out of the crib until 6:00a.m.!

Sleep tight,

Kim

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photo credit: makelessnoise via photopin cc


12 comments
thetam
thetam

Hello you told me this blog is free so does that mean you answer questions in here? Please help me my 19daughter month old daughter got up at 7:15am today, napped from 12:40 to 3:00 and I put her to bed at 6:50 to try to stay within the 4 hour rule. She hardly ever has any sleep ques so I just watch the clock. She laid in her crib and refused to go to sleep until 8:00pm and now she has been awake since 3:00 am and it is 5:30am and she is still not asleep. Slam trying to keep her naptime consistent and she napped longer today than she normally does. Please help me with what I am doing wrong!!

LauraW.
LauraW.

My son is almost 18 months old and loves waking up at 5 a.m. (or earlier). I often make him stay in bed until 6 a.m. and I will go in to soothe him, but I don't get him out of his crib and I leave. Often he will barely cry and quiet quickly, sometimes falling asleep, sometimes not. If it is 5:30-5:45 a.m. I get up with him - but sometimes he will wake at 4:30 a.m. and not go back to sleep and I end up with him at 5 a.m. (like today). He currently has two naps a day - the first occurring 2.5 - 3 hours after he wakes up and lasting an hour or two. I've been trying to not let it go so long so that he won't go down for an afternoon nap by 2 p.m. and he'll rest about an hour and I let him sleep no later than 4 p.m. His bedtime is 7 p.m. at the latest (many times he's ready for his milk and bed by 6:45 p.m.) He goes down without any trouble and even if he lays awake for thirty minutes (sometimes longer) in his crib, he won't cry. He'll just fall asleep. He wakes sometimes in the night for a drink of water, but will drink and immediately lay back down on his own. I have tried to get him to one nap, but he simply can't last in the morning until an afternoon nap and if it's too early, then of course he can't last until his 6:30-7 p.m. bed time. I try to not let him go any longer than 4 hours between rest/nap times.HELP! I'm due with our second baby in May of 2012 and all I can imagine is a 4 a.m. feeding with baby #2 and getting up for the day with baby #1 by 5 a.m. It makes me want to cry. HA!

bethany
bethany

I need Help! My daughter jut turned one. Over the past year we have moved back and forth to different houses, states, apartments, hotel rooms, different cribs and pack and plays, at least 12 times. My longest stay in one place was while my husband was deployed, it finally resulted in her sleeping through the night and taking good naps, but only for two weeks, before we had to pack up and move into a one bedroom apartment when my husband came home. It was tramatic enough to be on the plane (not sleeping all day), and then move to a stange place with a different bed, but then the father she didnt remember was in the picture too. To make matters worse we are only going to be here for 4 more weeks until we move accross the country and in with my parents while we find a house of our own. I had a terrible pregnancy, I was sick at least 3 times a day until the week before I delivered, so it has been a long time since I have slept through the night myself. I dont have the energy to help her sleep, and she doesnt know my husband yet, but if she doesnt sleep neither do I, so it is a vicious cycle. All I want to do is cry. What do I do? Please help me.

Monica
Monica

Dear Kim,
I really need your help! I have used the sleep shuffle on my soon to be 2 year old when he was 21 months old. It helped a lot! Now that he has started daycare, he takes at least 2 hours to fall alseep!! He is in bed by 7:30 pm, continues to wake up now several times (due to separation anxiety). I feel that he is not getting enough sleep! What should Ido?

Thanks,

Monica

leigh marcus
leigh marcus

as a pediatrician, i thought i could take my own advice and get my daughter to sleep through the night. but after 11 months of crying at least 2 times a night, we decided to seek some outside help. kim had great suggestions and now our beautiful daughter is almost 1, and sleeps like a champ! thanks kim!

Christina
Christina

Dear Kim,

Thank you so much for including my questions in your blog! I really appreciate the tips and see a lot of our situation in your answer. I forgot to mention - we have daycare during the week. As much as everyone says to keep the same schedule on weekends, this just has NOT been our reality. Are there any additional tips you could give those of us moving from 2 to 1 nap and dealing with our chronic early birds?!

Thanks again for the gift of sleep! - Christina

Marie
Marie

Thanks for your great advice!

KimWest
KimWest

Bethany,
Wow, that does sound like a challenging schedule!!! You can get a lot accomplished in 4 more weeks! If you don't want to do it alone, ask your mother if she will support you when you live with her...having an ally really helps! Of course if your husband is there he can help too. You can do the Shuffle with your daughter together or he can help out at other times while you try to get some rest. Make sure your husband spends time playing with her, feeding her, reading with her at bedtime, bathing her....all things that will help them bond and reconnect. Read the age related chapter in my book, fill out the sleep plan in my workbook or consider an individual consultation or joining my bootcamp. Pick a date and start the Shuffle! Hang in there!

KimWest
KimWest

Monica,
Depending on how recently your son started daycare, you may want to do a quick Shuffle or even start with sitting by the door to help ease his separation anxiety. Find out what time his nap time is also so that he has 4 hours of wakefulness between nap time and bedtime.
Strike a balance...be nurturing and love while trying not to ingrain any new negative sleep habits during this transition time.
Best of luck! Kim

KimWest
KimWest

Yeah! Sleep is everything!
So happy to hear that all are sleeping well in your home!
Keep up the great work!
Kim

KimWest
KimWest

Christina-
I have found that many daycare centers transition toddlers to one nap based on their age and not the sleep signs. If that is your case and you can not get your child moved to the 2 naps a day group then be open to 2 naps on the weekend. It is more important to follow your child's cues than keep the same schedule with daycare. There is a lot more advice about early rising and nap transitions in "Good Night Sleep Tight" (much more than I can fit in a blog post).
The gift of sleep is indeed priceless! Thanks, Kim

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