Transitioning to one nap a day can be an exciting and nerve wrecking time for some parents. The thought of 2 solid hours of time everyday sounds wonderful, but how do you know it's time? And how do you get there? This blog outlines signs to look for you and action steps to help you transition into a new schedule your little one with confidence!
We want to be careful to avoid dropping the nap too early, so it is important to remember that children will go through spells of fighting sleep for a few days here and there - usually when learning a new skill, like walking or language acquisition - this is normal and not an indication that you need to drop a nap. If you are seeing these signs, begin tracking your child’s sleep and do this for 2 weeks. Making the transition too early will result in lost sleep and overtiredness. Tracking sleep will help you make this determination. If your child continues presenting these signs for at least 2 weeks, then you will know it is time to transition to one nap. If the struggles resolve after a few days, stick with the 2 naps for a little longer.
At what age do we typically see this transition?
The timing of this transition can be quite a broad range depending on the sleep needs of your child. (Another reason why tracking sleep for 2 weeks can be so helpful.) Generally, I see children are ready to make this transition somewhere between 15 – 18 months. However, this will vary from child to child. Some children may start showing signs as early as 13 months and others may keep 2 naps until closer to 21 months. Remember, every child is unique as are their sleep needs. The timing of this transition will vary and that is okay.
Signs of readiness:
Playing through the morning nap
Taking longer to fall asleep at naptime (longer than 20 minutes)
Taking a morning nap, but refusing the afternoon nap (or vice versa)
Shorter naps (less than 30-40 minutes)
Waking more often through the night
Struggling to fall asleep at bedtime
Frequent early morning wakings (between 4:00 – 5:00am)
How to begin making the transition.
If you have been seeing the above signs for 2 weeks or more it is time to begin the transition from 2 naps down to one nap. Here what I want you to do:
Begin pushing the start time of the morning nap later by 15 minutes each day, until it is occurring at midday. Your goal is for the nap to start between 12:00 – 12:30pm.
Note: For a slower transition you can push the start time later every 2 days instead of every day. However, it is important to keep pushing forward until you get to at least 12:00pm to help your child adjust and follow their natural rhythm.
Keep in mind, It can take 4-6 weeks for your child to fully adjust to this transition.
How long should your child nap with only 1 nap?
An ideal nap length should be between 1.5 – 3 hours. While sleep length will vary depending on sleep needs, the minimum length we want for this nap is 90 minutes.
How long will your child continue with one nap?
The one nap schedule will stick around until your child transitions out of naps completely – usually between 3 to 6 years old. Check out this blog for more on the 1 to none transition.
As you work through this transition, you may notice changes in behavior and even some extra sleepiness throughout the day. It’s not an easy transition, but here are some other ways you can help:
Temporary Early Bedtime
When sleep is lost during the day, it is crucial to move bedtime at least 30-60 minutes earlier to help combat overtiredness. More sleep at night erases the need for sleep during the day!
Try to go outside for some playtime around the time your child would normally be napping. Your child may still be showing sleepy signs around this time, so a change of scenery and some outdoor play can be just the stimulation they need help get over the hump. Bonus: exposure to outside light is a great natural way to help your child’s natural rhythms get on track!
As with any sleep transition, this will take time. It can take at least 4-6 weeks for your child to fully adjust to this transition. Keep at it and don’t give up!
Are you in the middle of a nap transition or just struggling with finding the right sleep schedule for your child? I would love to connect and help you work toward your sleep goals! Contact me here.