Fighting a Nap? (Toddler Nap Regression!)


Apr 18, 2016


Playing in the crib.  What a near and dear subject to my heart.  Or should I say, my nerves.

If you’re a previous client or someone who has a fantastic sleeper, you might know exactly what I’m talking about.

If you’ve got a child who’s not sleeping well, the idea that they might be playing in their crib is probably pretty crazy to you, but it definitely happens. 

If you’ve got a child who can sleep well, can sleep independently, feels comfortable and confident in their crib, is happy to go there when it’s sleep time, you will find that there will be periods in your child’s life where they’re having a party in that crib all by themselves.

For the past few weeks I’ve been dealing with this exact situation in my 18 month old daughter.  We’ll go through our quick nap time routine, I’ll lay her down, tuck her in, say “Night-Night”, leave the room….and an hour (or more!) later…she’s still singing away, playing peek-a-boo with herself, or balancing her two beloved stuffed animals upside down from the crib rails. 

It’s enough to make even me (the sleep pro!) worry!

“What if she never goes to sleep?! She’s going to be so cranky!” 

“Is she ready for no naps?…Oh, please no.” 

“She’s rubbing her eyes! Why isn’t she going to sleep?!”

Why aren’t they sleeping?!

Calm down….Don’t worry.

It’s often a developmental phase that your child is going through! Typically it happens around the eighteenth month to two year mark. 

The biggest reason for this “regression” is language acquisition. They’re learning so much at such a rapid pace, they need time to process. They often do it by babbling or singing, or talking, and that’s part of the process of just organizing all this new information. Try not to panic about it. It’s totally normal! 

Also, don’t worry if one day they nap 3 hours, and the next they resist! It’s all part of their processing.

Okay, so they didn’t sleep…now what?

If your child (like mine) is in there for an hour, hour and a half, shouting, singing, and having fun…sure, they didn’t sleep, but it was still a break. You got a break. They got a break. 

It’s still a rest because there’s limited chances of running around and moving in the crib. You can just call it nap time. Go in, get your child out, and proceed with your day.

If your child doesn’t nap a wink you may need to move bedtime a little earlier to try and compensate for that.  In my own case, we’ve been known to put my daughter to bed at 5:30pm! She still woke at her usual 7am the next morning, all to compensate for the no-sleep day prior. 

When will this go away?

This natural sleep regression usually fades out in a few weeks, andthen they go back to napping well. Same thing with bedtime! It could just be, developmentally, that your child needs some time to play, and talk, and practice these skills more before giving into sleep. Give it a few weeks (each kid is different) and see if it goes away on its own. 

What if it doesn’t go away?

If your child is 2.5 years and older, you may need to look at eliminating the daytime nap. (SEE THIS PODCAST!)

I find that most toddlers will happily take a nap, but then at bedtime wanted to a have party until 9:00 at night. If this is happening into the third, fourth week, you’ll know it’s time to look at the nap. Otherwise, I want you to just let it go. 

As much as we want to, you can’t force someone to sleep. You could go in there continuing to plead with your child to sleep… if you want to.  But if he’s not going to sleep, he’s not going to sleep. 

Reassure yourself that you’re giving him ample opportunity to take a great nap, get to bed on time, sleep a restful night. You’ve given them all the skills he needs to be an excellent sleeper, and the rest is up to him. If he wants to play for an hour before he passes out, fine. If he wants to play through the whole nap, “Oh well!” 

Bottom line: This is not going to last forever. It’s an important part of their development.

Have questions about sleep regression?  Contact me or check out previous blog posts. 

Sweet Dreams,
Your Certified Child Sleep Specialist 


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