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Should I be stricter with my child's naps?

Having a nightmare with naps? Battling with routines that just don't fit?


Dealing with ever-changing sleep needs, and juggling multiple children and their own sleep needs can mean that sleep times can be all over the place. If this is you here is some information that might help you get a better grasp on daytime sleep.


The purpose of naps is to minimise the stress response that our bodies mount in response to increased sleep pressure. Naps help to reduce cortisol and allow our little one's bodies to grow and learn (Hupbach et al 2009).


There is lots of research about the importance of naps, but less evidence suggesting when these should be.


Most children fit into one of two styles of sleeping; cat napper or longer infrequent napper. There is no evidence to suggest that one approach is better than another, I have a pragmatic view of this; if it works for you stick to it!


Generally, however, the consensus is that naps should be distributed evenly throughout the day to reduce cortisol elevation.


For example, a child having one nap would benefit from having it in the middle of the day. This is because:

1. If the nap is too soon after waking the drive to sleep (sleep pressure) will be too low and will mean it is harder for them to fall asleep.

2. If your little one is awake too long then their sleep pressure will be too high and this might cause them to become stressed and they will 'crash into sleep'. This is called sleep latency.


Sleep latency is the time it takes to fall asleep, this can be a handy sign to assess if your child is sleep deprived. The ideal sleep latency is 15-20 minutes from when the lights go out to when they are asleep.


But back to napping!

I like to recommend a total amount of daytime sleep, this can help parents to decide if their child is getting too much or too little sleep before making any changes.

As a guide:


So here are my simple tips for finding your groove with naps:

  • Use the total day sleep guide above to identify if your child falls close or within these brackets for their age.

  • Understanding and identifying their tired signals can help us to know when naps may be best.

  • Sleep inertia is grogginess and irritability when waking from sleep, if your child is showing signs of this it may be good to address their naps to lengthen their sleep time.

  • Using a sleep diary can help enable us to record a picture of sleep and adapt this to your child. (You can find a free sleep diary template on my website's freebies page!)

  • Managing sleep hygiene and wind-down time can help with getting calm before sleep, which is our ultimate goal in order to achieve sleep!

Happy Napping!


With love,

Imogen, Founder of The Little Sleep Company

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