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Snooze control

As your child grows through the toddler stage, his sleep patterns may change–and it usually happens just when you thought you had naptime all figured out! Here’s how to cope with two common napping conundrums.

There’s plenty of variability when it comes to toddler nap schedules, but around 18 months many toddlers will drop down to one nap a day. Ideally, their total naptime should be less than three hours, or it may disrupt their nighttime sleep. 

Two common napping conundrums: 

1. “My son has become a marathon napper. How can I get him on a shorter afternoon nap schedule?” 

As they consolidate their daytime sleep into a single nap, some toddlers really get into it, sleeping for four or five hours every day. This can interfere with daycare or other family activities. It may also be a sign that the little guy isn’t getting enough sleep at night, says paediatric neurologist Shelly Weiss of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children’s Sleep Disorder Clinic. And marathon naps can create a frustrating cycle — after five hours of sleep in the afternoon, your toddler likely won’t fall asleep again until around 11 p.m., then he’s exhausted again by the following afternoon. Weiss suggests waking your marathoner after he’s napped for three hours, or before 4 p.m., even if it means that he’s cranky for an evening or two until his sleep patterns adjust. 

2. “Two naps is too many, but one is not enough. What now?” 

If your toddler has two naps a day, she’s probably raring to go all night long. But you may find that if you try to make her skip that second nap, she’s unbearably grumpy by late afternoon and falls asleep in her spaghetti. “Parents need to work towards one nap that will meet their toddler’s sleep needs,” says Kellie Walden, a baby wellness coordinator at the Early Years Centre in Peterborough, Ont. For example, you might try skipping the morning nap, then giving your toddler lunch around 11 a.m. She might fall asleep by noon and that one nap in the early afternoon will be enough to keep her happy until evening but ensure that she’s not too wide awake at bedtime.