A child’s sleep is not so simple; it is a complex behavior. It’s not just about falling asleep during the day or being able to sleep at night. It is biology. It involves the brain and the hormones developing and progressing. It has cultural expectations and family dynamics.
Your concern as parents about your toddler’s naps dates back to the early 20th century. European experts measuring the sleep patterns of children were also worried these children were not getting enough sleep, just like you do now. So don’t worry your concerns are normal.
Many discoveries came out since then about children’s naps. Today, researchers believe that very young children have naps because of the so-called sleep pressure. This sleep pressure builds fast in their highly active brains during waking hours, accumulating so quickly that napping is a biological need.
As toddlers grow, they gain the skill to fight that remaining nap to complete the required daily sleeping hours or just leave it behind. But each toddler has a different experience, and many parents struggle with letting go of the idea that their toddlers are ready to stop napping.
Toddlers need a nap when their body still welcomes it. After doing our share of preparations for them to be able to get that nap during the day, and yet they remain as active and playful and refuse nap time, they’ll probably have a long nighttime sleep. Be sensitive to the changes in your toddlers’ nap transitioning. Make such experiences free of stress and something that will leave a beautiful mark as they grow.
Toddler Naps Explained In Detail and Other Important Facts
When do toddlers stop napping? You know children should get enough rest time through nap times and a long night’s sleep. You know that sleeping is the best way to help them grow physically, emotionally, and mentally. So, when they stop napping, you get worried.
Napping is an essential part not only of your toddler’s life but also yours. This napping is the way for your child to replenish lost energy from too much playing and the body’s mechanism for growth. But when kids stop napping, you wonder if it is just your way of rearing them as parents or if there’s something wrong with their internal processes.
Consequently, having enough sleep is critical to your child’s total growth and development; you want to make sure you do what’s right.
This guide will help you understand if your child is ready to stop napping or what steps you should take to improve your toddler’s nap routine.
HOW LONG SHOULD TODDLERS NAP?
How long should toddlers nap is the pressing question of every parent and caregiver. There is no “one-size-fits-all,” especially where the development of your child is concerned. Even in their sleeping patterns, you will notice the difference in each child’s experience.
At each stage of their life, their sleep needs vary.
WHEN DO KIDS STOP NAPPING?
Newborns up to 6 months
Newborns up to 6 months have not developed their internal clock, so their sleep patterns are not consistent yet. Sometimes they’re asleep in the morning and awake at night or the other way around.
A few weeks after birth, babies may sleep for as long as 4 to 5 hours at a time. Their tummies trigger them to wake up to demand their feeding. Some babies who sleep continuously at night are those that already had a good feeding before they sleep.
Then the time you’ve been waiting for arrives. Your baby suddenly sleeps longer at night.
When infants are three months old, their sleep averages around 14 hours the whole day, and the usual 2 to 3 daytime naps.
Infants 6 to 12 months
Infants 6 to 12 months old need lots of sleep. At six months, they need to sleep an average of 14 hours, including two to three daytime naps. These daytime naps are 2 hours or sometimes as less as 30 minutes each. Some infants wake up at night for feeding, but most sleep through the night.
Toddlers 1 to 2 years old
Toddlers 1 to 2 years old are starting to have more activities that will make them want to stay up when you presume they must be taking their naps. This may mean not having that extra time for yourself during the day, but being more active means that they’re growing. They’re becoming more excited about playing and exploring. Aren’t those reasons for you to be happy?
Toddlers 1 to 2 years old get around 10 to 14 hours of sleep for the whole day. And this includes the seldom naps on average.
Toddlers 3 years old
Toddlers 3 years old are more curious and active. Most of them are unaware of their time and focus too much on the play. Moreover, they won’t take their naps until they aren’t tired.
And when they do feel tired, they doze off anytime and anywhere. That’s why toddlers tend to sleep earlier, which may take 10 hours or more.
WHEN DO TODDLERS STOP NAPPING?
You’re wondering why your kids stop napping earlier than other kids. It is a known fact that even siblings have different napping routines. No child has the same napping routine, or even each child doesn’t have a constant napping routine.
Children between the ages of 2 and 5 years have shorter nap times, or daytime naps slowly disappear as they grow. Therefore, it is evident that kids stop napping when their minds and bodies are ready to transition into more grown-up individuals that they start to realize they could do so much about the things around them.
The average statistics for toddler sleep shows that most toddlers stop napping around ages 3 to 4 years. However, this may still not apply to all as every child is different. Your child may have 1 to 2 naps, totaling around 2 to 2.5 hours at about 12 months. Some children sleep a lot less at night and may doze off in the day. You will notice that most children gradually reduce nap time when they’re 18 months old from two naps to one, then to none.
On average, the majority of children stop napping by the time they’re five years old.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR TODDLER IS READY TO STOP NAPPING?
How do you know when your toddler is ready to stop napping without disrupting the chances of getting more benefits from nap time?
You know that they need the benefits of sleeping to grow. However, you also know that when they explore their environment, they learn more about it. When they skip nap time and try to play or watch more, they become more aware of their world.
You are torn between the two essential things your child needs: nap time and exploration/ playtime. Which is which?
4 SIGNS YOUR TODDLER SHOULD STOP NAPPING
Sign #1: Your toddler doesn’t fall asleep at bedtime.
You’ve observed that your child doesn’t fall asleep at bedtime. When they do get their naps during the daytime, they sleep at night rather a little late.
When toddlers refuse to go to bed at their usual bedtime, this is a sign that they are ready to drop a nap. Why? For the simple reason that they become tireless after taking one or because your child is prepared to go to another phase in life.
WHAT DOCTORS SAY
According to Dr. Oskar Jenni, a pediatrician director of the child development project at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich.“If children stop napping, that represents a process of neurological maturation. The ability to tolerate wakefulness is an indication that the brain is maturing.”
Wow! This medical advice is a reason to be happy, isn’t it? Your child is maturing, which means your child is developing, and ready to stop napping!
Sign #2: You can’t make your toddler take naps.
No matter what you do just to set the right napping mood, you can’t make your toddler take naps anymore.
Some children just happen to stop loving daytime sleep even if they still need them. Although most kids ages 5 years and above transition to another phase, on average, there are still 20% who are still napping at this stage.
Coping with this change isn’t easy; suppose which, but it’s not impossible. Your child is ready to stop napping and has transitioned to another phase, and you must.
WHAT DOCTORS SAY
Doctors’ medical advice to parents and caregivers is to understand this phase that each child goes through. Once children go through a period when they don’t stop playing until they aren’t too tired, you must find a way not to encourage them to sleep late in the afternoon. Your toddler may nap around 4:00 or 5:00 pm, when they’re too exhausted to resist naps, they won’t fall asleep at bedtime.
A helpful tip is to help by engaging them with activities that will keep them up until you know that won’t rob them of falling asleep when the right time comes. You could also adjust dinner time and bedtime to match this with the transition. By doing so, your toddler can have enough rest time and peaceful nighttime sleep.
Sign #3: Your toddler fights you and the idea of nap time.
Your toddler gets annoyed at you for pushing a daytime nap. Who wouldn’t be?
Toddlers have this excitement to explore more of the world that has just begun to unravel on them. And just as when they’re starting to have fun, you start putting them in bed and sometimes giving them that commanding voice that they need naps. Wouldn’t you get annoyed too if you were in their shoes?
Problems arise, mainly because this change in a toddler’s attitude with sleep conflicts with what you were used to. You think that the tantrums, whining, and resistance that may have been caused by exhaustion from too much play, a sign that your toddler is not ready to drop a daytime nap.
WHAT DOCTORS SAY
An article in the New York Times mentioned that a group of scientists at the University of Colorado conducted the first study on how napping affects the cortisol awakening response – a burst of hormone secretion known to take place shortly after waking in the morning.
The study showed that children produce this response after short naps in the morning and the afternoon but not in the evening. And this response may help children with the stresses of the day.
One of these sleep scientists is Dr. Monique LeBourgeois, who experimentally restricted sleep in young children and then analyzed their behavior by putting puzzles together. Dr. LeBourgeois’ group also quantifies how napping or the lack of it affects children’s response to situations.
“Sleepy children are not able to cope with day-to-day challenges in their worlds. When children skip even a single nap, we get less positivity, more negativity, and decreased cognitive engagement.”-Dr. LeBourgeois
Sign #4: Your toddler doesn’t seem to get tired.
When your toddler doesn’t seem to get tired, you are left to think if there’s something wrong. It’s not unusual for children to have that blast of unending energy. But when they’ve been up and about the whole day, you wonder what’s keeping them that way.
WHAT DOCTORS SAY
You’ll notice that your toddler not only refuses to nap but also doesn’t seem to be tired at all. According to Dr. Innessa Michelle Donskoy, from Advocate Children’s Medical Group, under Pediatric Sleep Medicine:
“Sleep is controlled by two overarching processes: our circadian rhythm (our internal 24-hour clock) and our sleep pressure drive. This latter drive for sleep starts low in the morning and builds throughout the day so that by the time we get to the evening; our sleep pressure is so high; we can fall asleep easily and pay it off throughout the night. As we build sleep pressure, any amount that we pay off in the daytime (with a nap, for example) will prolong how much additional time we need to get back to that ‘pressure’ where we can fall asleep easily.”
If you notice that your child seems happy even without the nap, this could mean no need for naps anymore. Being sensitive to these signs and handling them well without stress for you and your toddler will leave a positive impression with sleep. This impression will stay with them into adulthood. Dr, Donskoy further explained.