You don't need me to tell you that short naps can be a real pain. But aside from being a major inconvenience, they can be problematic for quite a few reasons...
Your child isn't getting the restorative daytime sleep they need and are likely feeling pretty grumpy and out of sorts as a result.
It's literally impossible to maintain a set daily schedule when naps are so short and inconsistent.
You feel on the back foot constantly and struggle to plan or schedule things as you never quite know how your day will pan out.
You can't get a dang thing done during nap time because it feels like no sooner has your child fallen asleep... they're already awake again!
Nights/ early mornings are also a struggle thanks to all that pesky over tiredness from the lack of quality daytime sleep :(
The GOOD news, is that it's usually pretty easy to pinpoint the reason behind 'crap naps' once you know what you're looking for (sorry I couldn't resist!). The biggest issue I find is that many parents simply don't understand the root cause of their sleep woes, which makes it very difficult to take the appropriate action and so the cycle of poor sleep continues.
Below are the 5 most common causes of short naps which I hope will give you food for thought and help you develop a plan to resolve those itty bitty naps once and for all!
1. Sleep Environment Is Not Well-Optimised
Think of your child's sleep environment as setting the stage for great sleep. Without the stage meticulously set, it's very difficult to achieve that consistency we as parents (usually!) strive for when it comes to our child or children's sleep. Things like room temperature, level of darkness, use of white noise and sleeping attire are all key components that make up the perfect sleep environment.
2. Routines Are Inconsistent (Or Non-Existent!)
You've probably heard it before- children thrive on routine. And sleep is no different! Implementing consistent daily routines around things like feeding, sleeping and awake time is critical to maintaining consistency and predictability around sleep itself. So if things look different in your house from one day to the next, or depending on how things are going, it's high time you mapped out some simple routines and begin completing the same steps, in the same order, each and every time.
3. Schedule Is Off
Following an age-appropriate daily schedule for your child is one of THE most important things when it comes to achieving and maintaining great sleep. However remember that sleep needs evolve quickly, so it's important to keep a close eye on things as your child grows and develops and ensure you adjust things as and when required. It's also important to strike the right balance between each nap and between naps and night time sleep, so always ensure you are implementing a schedule that is suitable for your child's age.
4. Dependency on A Sleep Onset Association
Babies and toddlers who are dependent on someone, or something to fall asleep will nearly always struggle with short naps at one point or another. Doing things like rocking, feeding, giving a soother, pushing, driving, holding, patting, stroking and so on are all designed to *help* to sleep. This means that when the child wakes after a 40 minute sleep cycle, they wake up looking around for whatever it was they had upfront to fall asleep initially. They simply don't have the skills to fall asleep independently, therefore are unable to connect sleep cycles and sleep for longer stretches. Teaching your little one how to fall asleep independently is literally the greatest gift you can give a child who is frustrated and struggling to connect sleep cycles, be it for naps or night time sleep.
5. Reinforcing The Behaviour
If your child wakes like clockwork after 40 minutes and you are going straight in and lifting them out, chances are you are unintentionally reinforcing the short nap. It's so important to give your child a fair and reasonable chance to fall back asleep again even when they wake prematurely from a nap. So not rushing in as soon as you hear a peep is KEY! Of course, this advice only applies to children who are capable of putting themselves to sleep upfront at the beginning of a sleep cycle, so if your child doesn't yet possess this skill, then refer back to point #4 :)
Do any of the above sound familiar? Lemme know in the comments below!