Having a child who is able to fall asleep independently is an important part of establishing a healthy sleep schedule. Naps also play a very important role.
If your child is not napping frequently enough, or if the awake time in-between their last nap of the day and bedtime is too long, you may be sabotaging their night sleep.
Children through the age of three require at least one nap a day. The younger the child, the more sleep they need and the shorter their waketime should be in-between naps. Not having your child on a healthy sleep schedule is racking up a sleep debt, which will eventually result in making him or her chronically overtired. Think of sleep debt as “charging” lost sleep to a “sleep card” every day, but never paying the bill, aka – catching up on that sleep.
For example, if your child is five-months-old, taking two one-hour naps per day, they are missing over two hours of their average daily sleep need. In addition, if parents are not adjusting bedtime to account for their child’s poor naps, more and more sleep debt is being racked up.
A chronically over-tired child will have a tough time falling sleep, staying asleep, may experience multiple night-waking’s, and may potentially become a chronic early riser (anything before 6am). These are several examples of how not having your child on the correct nap schedule, not using the correct awake times, and not adjusting your child’s bedtime can cause long-term challenges in your child’s sleep.
So, what does a healthy nap schedule look like? When should your child transition their nap schedule?
Below are the nap time recommendations I give to the families I work with:
- 0 to 2 months – 4+ naps a day
- 3-months – 4 naps a day
- 4-months – 4 to 3 naps a day
- 5-months – 3 naps a day
- 6 to 8-months – 3 to 2 naps a day
- 9 to 11-months – 2 naps a day
- 12 to 14-months – 2 to 1 nap(s) a day
- 15-months to 2-years – 1 nap a day
- 3-years and beyond – 0 to 1 nap a day
Even when a child is no longer napping, I still recommend to the families I work with to have their preschooler lay down for 90-minutes each day for some “quiet time.” Their little minds and bodies are learning and growing so rapidly that providing them to time to lay down and rest will allow them to reset for the day.
A healthy nap schedule is not only important for your child’s daytime sleep needs, but also for their overall sleep needs. Sleep begets sleep. A child that is on a healthy daily and nightly sleep schedule is going to be a better rested child.
It is never too late to get your child on a healthy sleep schedule!