#2 Sleep Secret- Make time for naps

  • Why does my child wake so many times at night?
  •  Why does my child wake at 5am and is ready to start their day?  
  • Why is bedtime such a battle? 
  • Why does my child only sleep for 10-20 minutes or sometimes 45 minutes?

If you are dealing with anyone of these situations chances are your child might be sleep deprived and lacking that important restorative day time sleep.  The secret is to make time for naps during the day to help your child rejuvenate!
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In his book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Marc Weissbluth, MD, shares “Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best.”
Just like having an earlier bedtime helps children get in the quality sleep they need, a siesta during the day helps improve memory function, learning, development, alertness.  During the first year of life growth and development is so rapid.  Day to day you can see the changes.  Although after the first year, children are still developing and growing and achieving new milestones growth slows down just a bit.    That restorative naptime helps regulate our child continue that healthy growth! 

Day and night sleep serve different purposes.   

Without good day time naps you may find that your child has more meltdowns, becomes difficult to handle, will wake up earlier than 6am, and wake multiple times at night.  Why?  Well, little bodies and minds need time to process all that they are learning and taking in during the wakeful hours.  When they skip or fight naps they usually become overtired and over stimulated which causes a natural adrenaline rush caused by cortisol.  Most people have a hard time regulating themselves, but when you have a little one who doesn’t know how to regulate themselves, it can cause more crying and stress for the child and parents.  

Ending naptime battles

The key to your success will be to figure out the right timing for naps.  Of course the first few months babies have irregular sleep patterns which may start to take shape between 3-6 months.  However around 6 months of age is when sleep patterns mature.  Depending on your child’s age wakeful windows could be 2-3 hours.  Follow your child’s sleep cues to figure out that just right time for their sleep window.  You can figure this out by watching your child and the clock and keeping a log.  Following your child’s natural body clock can eliminate the guesswork. Once you get the patterns established, it’s key to keep naps in place during the first 2 years of your child’s life.  Make it the rule to keep naps sacred, not the exception. 

Create a naptime routine

Children are creatures of habit.  Put in place a mini- bedtime routine that signals “it’s time for nap.”  What does that look like?  Our naptime routine takes place after lunch.   We have our calm and classical music playing, while we do a diaper change and we read a book snuggled on the couch.  After our book we do big squeezes and hugs while we are going upstairs.   We turn the sound machine on and of course the room is nice and dark.  Then it’s just time for nap or for my boys that are now 4 and 6, rest time.  It’s a non negotiable part of our day! 

Nap coaching is hard- Stick with it!

It’s not a secret that this is a struggle for many families.  As parents we have to be SUPER consistent and persistent when it comes to nap coaching.   It’s our children’s responsibility to test the limits, but it’s our responsibility to set a firm and loving boundary.  If we give in, this is where many sleep challenges occur.  The key is to create a plan that you can follow through with no matter what age your child is.  
I came across this and there’s no other way to recreate it.  I see this with my children, the children I care for, my clients,  and look back at my experiences with children in the classroom.   I couldn’t agree more with the following observations that illustrate the difficulties faced and behavioral changes that children have when they have sleep problems: 

  • Children do not “outgrow” sleep problems; problems must be solved.
  • Children who sleep longer during the day have longer attention spans.
  • Babies who sleep less in the daytime appear more fitful and socially demanding, and they are less able to entertain or amuse themselves.
  • Toddlers who sleep more are more fun to be around, more sociable, and less demanding. Children who sleep less can behave somewhat like hyperactive children.
  • Small but constant deficits in sleep over time tend to have escalating and perhaps long-term effects on brain function.
  • Children with higher IQs — in every age group studied — slept longer.
  • For ADHD children, improvements in sleep dramatically improved peer relations and classroom performance.
  • Healthy sleep positively affects neurologic development and appears to be the right medicine for the prevention of many learning and behavioral problems.
    • from Wiessbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and On Becoming Baby Wise, by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, MD

Make sleep a family priority and healthy habit for life!  Even during the day for naps or commit to a family rest time.  It’s good for everyone!
Sleep tight!