How to Know When it’s Time for Your Toddler to Drop their Midday Naps?

by | Oct 29, 2020 | Blog, Famous Nap Transitions, Podcast, Sleep Challenges | 0 comments

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As parents, one of the many milestones we eagerly anticipate is the moment our children drop those daytime naps.  The path to this no-nap schedule, however, can look VERY different from child to child.  Some toddlers continue to nap without a fuss until they’re well into their preschool years, while others start showing signs of nap resistance much earlier. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore the telltale signs that your toddler might be ready to drop their naps.   I’ll provide you with insights to help guide your family through this important stage of development. So, whether your toddler is a naptime enthusiast or a reluctant napper, you’ll soon be better equipped to recognize the signs and navigate this exciting yet bittersweet transitional period.  

Do daytime naps affect nighttime sleep for toddlers?

Absolutely!  What goes on during the day directly impacts what happens at night.  It’s important to make sure your toddler is always getting the sleep they need.

Here’s a general idea of how much sleep an average toddler needs:

  • An average 18 month-old needs approximately 13.5 hours of sleep over a 24 hour period.  This usually means 11 hours of nighttime sleep and 2.5 hours of daytime sleep.
  • An average 2 year-old needs approximately 13 hours of sleep over a 24 hour period.  This usually means 11 hours of nighttime sleep and 2 hours of daytime sleep.
  • An average 3 year-old needs 12 hours of sleep over a 24 hour period.  This usually means 11 hours of nighttime sleep and a 1 hour nap, OR 12 hours of nighttime sleep and no naps.
  • An average 4 year-old needs approximately 11.5 hours of sleep over a 24 hour period.  By this age, most children are done napping and are only sleeping 11.5 hours at night.

Here’s what you need to be aware of. On the one hand, if your toddler needs a long nap but ends up skipping it, he will be very overtired.  And when your toddler is overtired, it can cause difficulty falling asleep, night-wakings, and early rising.

On the other hand, if your toddler’s daily nap is TOO long, it can also affect their nighttime sleep.  This is because there’s only so much sleep your little one needs over a 24-hour period.  So when your child has too much daytime sleep, it can lead to a) bedtime battles (because your little one isn’t tired enough to fall asleep nicely); and b) early rising (because he’s slept too much and isn’t tired anymore).

**This is why knowing when your toddler is ready to drop their naps and respecting their sleep schedule is VERY important. CLICK HERE to grab a copy of my free sleep chart to help you figure out the ideal sleep schedule for your child based on how much sleep he needs!**

Free sleep chart for toddler

What to do when your toddler is fighting their naps?

If you’re experiencing nap resistance with your toddler, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ready to drop it.  Rather, he could be refusing his nap because of the following reasons: 

  1. The nap time is too early.  Even though your little one may have consistently gone down easily for an afternoon nap at a certain time of day, he might not be tired enough at that time anymore.  Try shifting the timing of this nap later by 30 minutes.  It could make all the difference!
  2. The room isn’t dark enough.  If the room has too much light, it’s going to suppress your little one’s natural production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy.  And when that happens, falling asleep for their afternoon nap becomes MUCH harder.  Blackout blinds are your best friend here. (We have these ones in Eliana’s room- they’re great!)
  3. Your toddler is testing the boundaries.  It’s very normal for toddlers to test the waters, push back on their routines, and resist the occasional nap during a toddler sleep regression. If your child is fighting a nap or refusing to go to sleep without you, stay calm and patient. Repeatedly offer the opportunity for a short nap.  And if they continue to resist the nap, consider allowing some quiet time in their crib or bed.  They may eventually fall asleep on their own.
  4. Your toddler needs more time to wind down.  Toddlers and preschool-aged children often have VERY high energy levels.  This makes it challenging for them to wind down and prepare for their midday nap.  Make sure you always have consistent wind-down routines to help your energetic toddler prepare for sleep.      

How do I know when my toddler is ready to drop their naps?

The first and most telltale sign your toddler is ready to drop their nap is when your little one consistently fights their nap, despite addressing those 4 factors above.

You’ve played around with your toddler’s nap time.  The room is as dark as a bat cave.  You have an enjoyable, consistent naptime routine.  And you’ve given your little one a solid 1-2 weeks to shake their sillies out in their crib during naptime, with absolutely no success.

Your toddler is still refusing their nap.

This usually means your child’s midday nap is ready to go.

The second sign to look out for is when they have difficulty falling asleep at bedtime, despite having a short nap.  We never want your little one’s nap to get in the way of a full night’s sleep.  So when your child’s bedtime gets pushed VERY late, it’s probably time to ditch their nap.

What age does a toddler usually drop their afternoon naps?

Toddlers usually drop their afternoon nap somewhere between 3 and 4 years of age.  That being said, I’ve seen some 2.5 year olds drop their nap completely.  And I’ve seen 4-5 year olds hang onto their naps consistently, with no end in sight.  

When it comes to this specific nap transition, there is definitely individual variation here!

    

Is it okay for a 2 year-old to not nap?

Ehh, that’s a tricky one for me.  Most 24 month-old toddlers REALLY need their nap and will be VERY overtired without it.  If you’re experiencing nap refusal with your 2 year old, address those 4 steps listed above.  I’d bet my bottom dollar their nap will magically come back 🙂

How to help a toddler transition off napping

Transitioning a toddler to a no-nap schedule when they’re ready to drop their naps can sometimes be a gradual process.  Here are my top tips for navigating this transition as smoothly as possible using a gradual approach:

  • Instead of abruptly eliminating the nap, start by shortening the length of the nap.  For example, if your child usually naps for 75 minutes, cap the nap at 60 minutes.  From there, cap it again at 45 minutes.  
  • Introduce “quiet time” during the former naptime, even if your child doesn’t sleep. Encourage your toddler to rest, read a book, or engage in quiet, calming activities during this period.  *Note- not all children will go along with this rest time.  It’s okay if they’re not a fan- don’t force it.
  • On weekends or days when you have a more relaxed schedule, you can allow your toddler to take a nap if they seem particularly tired. This can help prevent them from becoming too overtired during the transition.
  • On days they don’t nap, they will need a MUCH earlier bedtime to avoid overtiredness.  This might mean your child goes to bed for 6pm some nights.  It’s fine! 

Alternatively, you can always remove your child’s nap cold turkey if you see they’re ready.  If your little one can get through the day *consistently* without collapsing by 5pm, it’s a good sign they’re ready to drop their nap completely. 

When should a toddler’s bedtime be when they’re not napping?

The appropriate bedtime for a toddler who is no longer napping can vary based on your child’s age, activity level, and individual sleep needs. However, as a general guideline, here are some bedtime recommendations for toddlers who have dropped their daytime nap.

A 2.5-3 year-old typically needs about 12-12.5 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period.  Without a nap, their bedtime will need to be much earlier than usual to avoid overtiredness.  So if your child is usually waking up at 7am for the day, assume they will need to go to bed for the night by 630pm-7pm at the latest.

With 3.5-4 year-olds, they need slightly less sleep- approximately 11.5-12 hours in total.  So with a 7am morning wakeup, they will likely be ready for bed for 7pm-730pm.

By the time your child is 4-5 years-old, they need about 11-11.5 hours of sleep.  With a 7am morning wakeup, your child will likely be ready for bed by either 730pm or 8pm.  

If your toddler or preschooler is still not sleeping through the night…

If your child is still waking up in the middle of the night, I want to assure you that this is very fixable!  

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Go and watch my FREE masterclass called “Everything you need to know about getting your little one sleeping through the night (even if you feel like you’ve tried everything!)”. Yes- everything in this class applies to toddlers and preschoolers, not only babies!

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