Troubleshooting Short Naps
Updated: Jul 11
I’m going to be very honest and start this post by saying…short naps are not always a problem if nights are solid. I know that’s not ideal, but it’s true for some children.
Specifically, it’s true for my boys. Both Noah and Lukah had been chronic short nappers until they got down to one and two naps, respectfully, but Lukah’s nights were good (Noah’s weren’t because I didn’t know any better #firstchildproblems)! I had to accept that short naps with my boys were just a thing. It wasn’t always easy, especially when I have two – almost three – other kids to care for, and while simultaneously trying to work from home.
So, my goal with this post is to help improve your situation with some troubleshooting, or to help you accept it. We can only control what we can control, right?
What is a short nap?
Until your baby is beyond 6 months, nap times can vary greatly. Slightly before, or right around 6 months, most babies will start to see some consolidation of naps happening, especially if you’re working on independent sleep.
So, beyond 6 months old, I’d consider anything less than an hour a short nap. And if your child is 18-24 months, I’d consider anything less than 90 minutes a short nap.
If your child is older than 2, you might even get to the point where capping there nap should be considered, but that’s another conversation for a different day!
Causes of Short Naps
Can be a phase/developmental – as stated above, naps can be pretty sporadic up until 6 months of age for most kids. Approaching developmental milestones can also cause sleep regressions and naps can be affected.
The environment – we want to make sure that nothing external, and within our control, is causing our child to wake early or preventing them from connecting sleep cycles at nap time. Consider the following:
Is it dark enough? You shouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face, and any small appliance lights (monitor, clock, humidifier, etc.) should be covered with black electrical tape.
Is the white noise loud enough? 60-65 dB of sound is recommended.
Is it cool enough? Or is it too cold? The optimal temperature in a nursery should be between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Is there a schedule and is it still working? If you’re not on schedule that repeats from day to day, try to get on one – consistency is key in helping your little one’s circadian rhythm become established. Then, consider:
Is the schedule age-appropriate?
Are they getting too much night sleep?
Are they nearing a nap transition?
Are they overtired from not getting enough sleep?
Trial and error are going to be your best bets with scheduling – keep a sleep log so you can see what’s happening and try to figure out your next step!
Assess – is your child falling asleep independently for the nap? Are you giving them a chance to go back to sleep if they wake early? Are you assisting them back to sleep? Sometimes, establishing independent sleep is all you need to work on and naps will get better. It may be necessary to help extend naps for babies who are younger than 6 months to prevent overtiredness.
Are you using a nap routine? If you’re not, start! A routine will help your child transition from wakefulness to a period of sleep, and is proven to help with sleep.
How to Elongate Short Naps
Practice “crib hour”! There are some nuances to this method, so make sure:
Your baby falls asleep independently for their nap.
“Crib hour” is the hour from when they’ve fallen asleep to a full hour of time – leave them in their crib that whole time.
If they’ve woken prior to an hour, you respond with your sleep training method of choice until the full hour is up since they initially fell asleep.
Do not do this with babies who aren’t being sleep trained or are not yet independent sleepers.
“Wake to sleep” for if/when you’ve exhausted all other options and troubleshooting. The wake to sleep method helps reset your child’s sleep cycles. So, for naps, you would go in about 10 minutes before they normally wake up and gently rouse them. You don’t want to fully awaken them, but just offer a gentle touch to guide them into another sleep cycle. They roll over or take a deep breath. Sometimes they’ll wake up, so you’ll want to practice for a few days and really give it a shot before giving up.
And, if all else fails, it’s okay. Some kids just have lower sleep needs and short naps may be a thing for a while. It could just be how your kid is…and that’s okay! You can always DM me and we can commiserate together about our short nappers. 😉
And if naps are really a struggle for you, you can always purchase our Nap Bundle at Raising Happy Sleepers.