We spend so much time working to make sure our little ones sleep well at night and for naps that it can feel a bit disorienting to suddenly have to deal with the consequences of having a child that is napping too well at school or daycare. Unfortunately, as your child grows and needs less sleep, long or late naps can suddenly start to steal from night sleep. If your 2 to 4-year-old is taking long or late naps at daycare, you might find yourself facing a bedtime that seems to stretch on forever.
🕰️ Understanding the Nap-Bedtime Connection: According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, toddlers and preschoolers need 10-13 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period (see our age-by-stage sleep chart here). In addition, they need five to seven (!) hours of awake time after a nap before they're ready for bedtime. A 2-year-old might be able to fall asleep after around 5 hours awake, but a 4-year-old who still naps might need closer to 7 hours awake before they're ready for slumber. So, picture this: if your little one naps from 1 to 3 pm at school, they might not even be capable of falling asleep until as late as 10 pm!
⏰ How do you deal with long/late napping at school or daycare?
Before you enroll in a program: Ask the administrators what their policy is regarding napping. While this will only be one factor in your decision, it's always helpful to know how sleep is handled before you enroll in a given program. Check out our blog on how to incorporate new caregivers into your child's routine here.
Communicate with Caregivers: Talk with your child's daycare or preschool caregiver to see if naptime can be adjusted or shortened. While many children in this age range will still need a regular nap, it doesn't necessarily have to be long. A nap as short as 45 minutes may be plenty, especially if your child is over 2.5 years. A slightly earlier naptime might work wonders in aligning better with getting your child into bed at a reasonable hour.
The No-Nap Consideration: If your child is over 3 years old and can manage a full day without napping, discuss the possibility of transitioning your child to quiet time instead of a nap with your child's caregiver.
Flexible Bedtime Adjustments: If adjusting the daycare nap isn't an option, you'll need to adjust your child's bedtime relative to their naptime. If they're napping until 3 pm, push bedtime a little later to give your child an appropriate amount of awake time before sleep. It is ok to institute some quiet reading time before bed if needed. For example, if your child isn't ready for sleep until 8:30 pm, then you could give your child books to look at from 7:45 until 8:15. You would do the majority of the routine ahead of time and come back for a quick cuddle and light's out at the end. BSS Tip! Letting your child read using a flashlight will help your child get into sleep mode (remember, light tells the circadian rhythm that it's time to be awake), while also keeping the reading time interesting.
Banishing Bedtime Battles: If your little one is showing resistance at bedtime, you may be dealing with lingering resistance that developed when your child's schedule was off. Check out our blog on how to help your child get back on track here.
🌟 What do you do on Weekends? While consistency is usually key when it comes to sleep, it's okay if your child's weekend naps (or lack thereof) are different on weekends. Opt for shorter or even nap-free days to ensure that the transition between naptime and bedtime remains smoother overall.
The bottom line here is that if your child's daycare/school nap is encroaching on bedtime, observe your child's sleep cues and communicate openly with their caregivers to find the best approach. With a little tweaking and a lot of patience, you'll help your toddler conquer the nap-bedtime puzzle like a pro. For more insights and tips, sign up for our mailing list. If you are having trouble navigating how to manage your child's schedule, we would be happy to help in a one-on-one consultation.
Hall, W.A., Scher, A., Zaidman‐Zait, A., Espezel, H. and Warnock, F., 2012. A community‐based study of sleep and behaviour problems in 12‐to 36‐month‐old children. Child: care, health and development, 38(3), pp.379-389.
Philbrook, L.E., Vaughn, B.E., Lu, T., Krzysik, L. and El-Sheikh, M., 2019. Stability and change in daytime and nighttime sleep in children attending daycare. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 43(2), pp.166-172.
Teti, D.M., Whitesell, C.J., Mogle, J.A., Crosby, B., Buxton, O.M., Bierman, K.L. and Almeida, D.M., 2022. Sleep duration and kindergarten adjustment. Pediatrics, 150(2), p.e2021054362.
Paruthi, S., Brooks, L.J., D'Ambrosio, C., Hall, W.A., Kotagal, S., Lloyd, R.M., Malow, B.A., Maski, K., Nichols, C., Quan, S.F. and Rosen, C.L., 2016. Pediatric sleep duration consensus statement: a step forward. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(12), pp.1705-1706.