Short naps can be a challenge for both parents and babies, as they can disrupt a baby’s sleep schedule and leave parents feeling exhausted and frustrated. While it’s normal for babies to take short naps from time to time, consistent short naps are not good for your baby’s development. In this article, we’ll explore the challenges of short naps and provide some tips on how to encourage longer naps for your baby.
It’s important to understand that babies wake at the end of their sleep cycle just as we do, but what many babies struggle with is their ability to get themselves back to sleep. If you are having issues with naps lasting between 30-45 minutes, this likely occurs at the end of their first sleep cycle. But why does this happen?
Why do short naps occur and how to fix them?
1) Imagine falling asleep in one place such as a car but then waking up in a new location. Would this be a little upsetting to you? More than likely yes. Sleep is no different for babies.
As much as possible put your baby down awake in the sleep space that they will remain in for the duration of their nap. Creating a positive association with falling asleep and waking in their same sleep space will make transitioning to their next sleep cycle easier.
2) Does your baby have a sleep association with something that is external? This could look like rocking, patting, shushing, feeding to sleep or using a pacifier, to name a few. If you do one or more of these methods to get your baby to fall asleep, this may be contributing to short naps and here is why. If your baby relies on something external to get them to sleep and if at the end of their first sleep cycle that same thing is not there to put them back to sleep, then they will likely struggle falling back to sleep.
So, by eliminating the extra sleep associations, you are creating space for your baby to learn to fall asleep independently.
3) Overtiredness is the enemy when it comes to baby sleep. One would think that if your baby been awake too long, they would most definitely sleep well. But the opposite is true in this situation. An overtired baby will produce more cortisol which is not what their body needs to be going to sleep. I understand that keeping to a sleep schedule is hard when life is happening all around us but if you are noticing that your baby is having short naps and often are not going down within their age appropriate wake window (sign up for my free sleep reference guide for age appropriate wake windows) then perhaps it may be time to be a bit more rigid to see if you can help your baby get out of their overtiredness cycle.
4) Baby’s sleep environment may be lacking the necessary components. The number one item that I recommend is blackout curtains. We dismiss how light can greatly affect the quality of our sleep as it not being a necessary addition to our sleep environment. However, when light is coming through the window or even through the edges of existing curtains, this encourages the production of cortisol and as we discussed earlier, we do not want cortisol surging through their little bodies when we are trying to encourage longer naps. I recommend that a bedroom be very dark, like being unable to see two feet in front of your face. So, if your baby’s bedroom is needing some help with a good set of black-out curtains I highly recommend Sleepout (use code NEWLEAF for extra savings!).
Sleep is a very complex science and each baby is different in how they respond to sleep. If you are struggling to lengthen your baby’s naps and need some guidance, reach out to set up a call to discuss what we can do to help your child get the sleep they need and the breaks that you need too!