NAP TIME The bain of my life I hear your chime...
For some reason your baby is cat napping...10-20 minutes at a time or they are napping for one sleep cycle of 30-40 minutes or perhaps you have a child that just won’t nap unless they are in the buggy, being held or only in their cot restricting you to staying home all day. Perhaps your child that simply does not nap at all is making them grumpy and intolerable and by dinner time a crazed animal, by bath time a scary crying monster and at bedtime where they just crash out in a few minutes..! Does this sound familiar to you?
These short naps will most likely be having an effect on your child’s night time sleep. They may be waking multiple times within the first hour or so after bed time, waking many times before midnight and then boom...its 5am and they are up and ready for breakfast…it seems your days and night are all just one long period of hazy time with no let up. Some of the reasons for night waking’s and early starts are due to the sleep debt build up from the previous day, the short naps and long awake periods. A child who is not linking sleep cycles will not be able to consolidate their learning skills, they lose the ability to concentrate, take in information and learning new skills is very hard for them. Why? Well the first few hours of night sleep they will enter into a deep sleep phase a couple of times. During this phase, experiences and new skills they experienced during the day will be moved from the “short term” memory space to a “long term” memory box, the frontal cortex for those of you looking for the correct terminology! These memories are being stored on an extra hard drive if you like, easily accessible and where we get our memories from many moons ago! When they start to do this they can learn and remember how to link sleep cycles together and self-settle back to sleep independently and therefore start to nap longer more appropriate times in the day. Then when this starts to happen ideally you would look for one of your child's nap to be 2 hours or at least 1.5+ hours long. And when that happens amazing things start to happen inside their little body…
Build-up of energy restores
Cortisol levels will be decreased
Immune systems will be strengthened
Their appetite will be regulated
Brain connections will be made
Growth hormones will be released aiding development
Emotions and skills will be processed
Reasons why your baby may not be linking sleep cycles may be down to the following…
Not developmentally ready
Their sleep environment is not ideal
They may have a strong sleep association such as feed or rock to sleep and need you to help them back into a peaceful slumber…
So all that said where do you go from here? How can you “fix” this napping issue you are trying to deal with? How do we get babies to sleep longer periods and achieve optimum nap lengths for their age and stage that they need for healthy growth and development?
Swaddle (Depending on age and mobility)
This is a great positive sleep association that mimics the tight space they know from the womb and will also inhibit the “Moro-reflex” that can and will wake them.
Ensure their room is super dark. Use black out blinds where possible and make sure no natural or artificial light is entering the room. Even a little “dull” night light will inhibit sleep
Ensure you give your child a wind down period before nap and bedtime.
Use white or pink noise from as early as possible. Pre 12 weeks ideally and for as long as 1 year or more.
Ensure your child can self-settle without needing assistance from you.
If you do find your child waking early from a nap practise resettling so they get used to sleeping longer and set their circadian rhythm.
If you need more help with nap times or schedules do get in touch with me HERE and I can help you out!
Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant