Naps are undeniably a challenge for parents with young children.  Don’t underestimate the importance of daytime sleep.  It is a biological requirement for young children until at least age 3.  A common misconception among parents is that if their child won’t nap, it indicates that they don’t require day time sleep.  Although of course there are exceptions, most children (and their parents) benefit hugely from an age appropriate day time sleep provision.  Here are some tips to help you achieve adequate day time sleep for your little one.

  1.  Create the right environment.  The best place for your baby to sleep from 4 months of age onwards for the first 2 naps of the day is in the cot in a suitable sleep environment.
  2. Make sure the room is dark enough.  Don’t feel the need to teach your child the difference between night and day sleep beyond 12 weeks of age.  At that stage their hormones and sleeping rhythms are emerging and will do this job for you.  Your task is to create a dark room that is conducive to sleep; one that will enhance the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and help your baby settle into sleep.  The dark environment will also help your child to stay asleep and not wake prematurely from the nap.
  3. Have a mini bedtime routine before your child goes into the cot.  Dim the lights; use a sleeping bag if applicable to you.  Sing songs and tell stories to help relax their little bodies before you want them to fall asleep.
  4. Get the timing right.  Missing early sleep signals, like brief yawning and zoning out can make your child fight the sleep due to a chemical reaction that happens when the young body becomes overtired.
  5. Give your child a chance to learn how to become an efficient day time sleeper.  This skill set can take time to master and also takes time to build up momentum this means that lengthy naps can take time to emerge, but will never manifest if you don’t invest the time.
  6. Spend lots on one to one time with your child in between naps.  Make them the focus of your attention.
  7. Ensure that your child is getting enough fresh air in between sleeps.
  8. Have an appropriate feeding schedule so that your child goes to sleep well fed and doesn’t wake up early from the sleep due to hunger.

Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, is a paediatric sleep consultant and mum of four young children. She runs a private sleep consulting practice where she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country. See www.sleepmatters.ie <http://www.sleepmatters.ie>, t: 087 2683584 or e: lucy@sleepmatters.ie