Are you stuck in a cycle of short naps with your baby and can’t see to work out how to get out of it? Short naps are the worst because they can leave your baby tired and needing a nap way sooner than normal. And because your baby is getting overtired it becomes a vicious cycle you can’t seem to get out of.
When I talk about short naps I am meaning anything under 1 hour. A 1 hour nap, although still on the shorter side, is deemed restorative because your baby has been able to sleep over one full sleep cycle. Babies who are 4 months old, and sometimes even 5 months, may still be learning how to lengthen their naps. But if your baby is over 6 months old and still struggling with those dreaded short naps you should definitely be working on how to improve them.
The first thing to do if you are living in the land of short naps, is to go through a checklist of all the different reason they can happen and fix the one’s you think could be causing short naps in your household.
This is one of the most common reasons a baby has short naps. If they aren’t falling asleep independently at the start of a nap they wake up wanting the same thing that helped them fall asleep to begin with (rocking, nursing, holding) to get them back to sleep after a sleep cycle.
This is why I mention a vicious cycle! Overtiredness can definitely contribute to the dreaded short nap. When your baby is overtired their body is wired – which makes it harder to fall asleep initially but also to stay asleep for a decent amount of time. Think of it this way, have you ever struggled to get to sleep till the early hours of the morning only to wake up before your normal wake time? This is because the same thing is happening to you. Well rested babies will fall asleep easily and stay asleep better.
This one somewhat feeds into overtiredness as well. If your baby is being put down to nap at a time that is not inline with their biological rhythms this can affect their ability to fall asleep and stay asleep and have a nice long restorative nap.
The bedroom environment is incredibly important to ensure your baby sleeps well. If the room isn’t dark enough (think blackout curtains) then the light in the room could be disturbing your baby and making it harder for them to return to sleep when they wake briefly. If there are a lot of outside noises e.g. from a noisy toddler or traffic on the street, this can sometimes have an effect, especially for a more sensitive sleeper. Investing in a sound machine can help with this.
Hint: A nap 30 minutes or less is likely due to overtiredness. A nap of around 40-45 minutes is only one sleep cycle. This means it is more likely to be due to your baby being unable to connect sleep cycles and not having the required self soothing skills to nap well.
If you have tried to fix the suggestions above and saw no improvement, or have determined that a sleep association is the culprit, then sleep training is likely in your future. If you would like help with the sleep training, please feel free to reach out and I can help by customizing a sleep plan that works for your family and your baby. I have packages to suit all needs and budgets. If you are unsure whether hiring a Child Sleep Consultant is the right move for you, check this article out. Good luck!