Good Night sleep consultant Jolandi Becker explains that due to the vast emotional development taking place with toddlers, quality sleep helps with their emotional development, and being able to regulate their emotions will result in fewer tantrums. The benefits of sleep also include lower risk of obesity and heart problems, as well as an increased attention span that improves their ability to learn.
However, there are a number of factors that could prevent your toddler from napping. Jolandi decodes seven toddler nap problems and gives advice on how to handle each.
Is it possible that my toddler may have outgrown his current nap schedule?
Toddlers often move from two naps to one between the ages of 12 and 16 months. It’s not exact, so look out for signs that continue for five to seven consecutive days – it could be that your little one struggles to fall or asleep or wakes up too early. It’s called a nap transition for a reason; they should be moved gradually later and later each day. So, if the first nap currently starts at 9.30am, it should be moved to 10am for three days, then 10.30am for three days, and then 11am until you get to 12pm. Generally, toddlers have one longer nap during the day. At around two and a half to three years, bedtime behaviour could indicate that this nap need to be shortened.
How do I adjust my toddler’s routine in a way that his nap schedule is aligned to his biological clock?
Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles within the body and a variety of factors influence this internal clock, including the flow of the day, light and dark, temperature etc. The sun (light/temperature) is a big factor that you can control with things like black-out curtains. This can assist with naps as well as with early waking.
Will sleeping patterns be affected if the day car nap schedule is different to the home nap schedule?
It’s best to keep to the same schedule, but if it’s out slightly or for one day, it won’t make a difference.
How do I know when my toddler is ready for a nap?
For toddlers, I would rather keep to a specific time for a nap around midday rather than looking out for signs of sleepiness. They can be ninjas when it comes to sleep signals and can have many avoidance techniques and bursts of energy just as nap time arrives.
If my baby takes a nap in the car, will this affect his sleep when I put him down for his usual nap?
Car naps should only be taken if your toddler or baby can at least complete a sleep cycle of 45 to 60 minutes, otherwise you should rather keep him awake and put him down at home.
Tips for moms:
- Toddlers are emotional beings, so make sure to include plenty uninterrupted one-on-one time before or during the bedtime routine with your toddler.
- Toddlers have a poor concept of time, which means routines and schedules help give them an idea of what to expect and what will follow.
- Sleep becomes a discipline from toddlerhood.
Thobeka Phanyeko is mom to Oratile, 4. She is a journalist with a BA in Media studies from the University of Cape Town and has extensive experience as a journalist and content producer which she gained from Reuters, eNCA and Caxton Magazines. She is also a life coach and NLP Practitioner and is passionate about motherhood and women empowerment.