top of page

Why is my baby so bad at napping?

It can be common to feel like your child's nighttime sleep is okay, but their naps just suck!

There are many factors that play into this, including the environment, sleep pressure and good old FOMO.

What is different between day and night sleep?

Night-time sleep is different to daytime sleep because it is controlled by the circadian rhythm, this means that hormones are on our side when helping children feel sleepy. These hormones include cortisol and melatonin. During the day, cortisol levels are higher. Cortisol is an alerting hormone which keeps us awake and more stimulated. In the daytime these higher levels of cortisol can make sleep more challenging for some little people.

Sleep needs

As I touch on my other blogs, some children naturally have higher or lower sleep needs. For low sleep needs children, this means that in 24 hours they may have less sleep than their peers.

Sleep needs vary from child to child and some may be fighting their naps because they simply do not need as much sleep.

Children with these lower sleep needs can probably tolerate being awake for longer periods especially if there is lots going on that keeps them alert and active. Personality plays a big role here and may prevent them from finding it easy to switch off and detach.

However, any less than 9 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period is considered to be potentially problematic for children between 6 and 30 months (A, Sadeh, 2004).

You can take a look at our sleep needs chart below.

Days are just more fun!

Let's be realistic, days are actually fun times to be awake.

For more active toddlers and growing kiddies, why wouldn't they want to fight that sleep so they can stay up, practice their new developmental skills, have fun with their parents and peers and just soak up all the fun and stimulation of the day.

The fear of missing out is real for them too!


More often than not bedtime happens within a similar timeframe and the wind down follows a similar pattern of events that act as the precursor to sleep.

During the day it's easy to be swept up with tasks, be out and about and generally just a little more prone to change. This can make falling asleep a little funky for some little ones, and they may not find the rhythm of this so easy.

Naturally, the duration and number of naps change over time to accommodate their changing sleep needs which can lead to more regular changes to naps.

Also, they might fall asleep in the car, or in your arms, meaning their "normal" sleep time gets postponed or changed!

Amongst all this chaos, it is easy to see how it might make sleep a little funky at nap times especially if you have a little one who is sensitive to their environment.

My tips!

It's important to realise that we can't always control and manipulate sleep, it is there to support your child's body and us deciding now would be a good time for a nap isn't always enough to make that sleep happen (although that would be nice!).

If your child is generally happy and content during the day and managing to fall asleep for bedtime well and not experience too much nighttime disruption. And they are generally achieving a good amount of sleep in 24 hours then it is possibly okay to keep going as you are!

You may like to introduce a mini pre-nap wind-down time or watered-down bedtime routine that helps signal to them that it is sleep time. For example, you might have a story a song or a special toy that's associated with sleep times.

Make sure you optimise their nap sleep environment, making it dark and cosy. Layer in some settling tools and optimise the timing by keeping a sleep diary.

It's also okay to roll with sleep, you don't need to force it and create heightened stress for all parties if it just doesn't seem to happen.

Abandoning a nap does not make you a failure!


bottom of page