Compared to their early baby days, toddlers don't need to nap quite as often. However, if you force them to give up naps entirely, they'll become quite cranky towards the end of the day. If you're in the middle of altering your toddler's nap habits, having more information can make creating a new schedule easier.
How many naps does my toddler need?
Between the ages of one and three, toddlers need 12 to 14 hours of sleep over each 24-hour period. As a parent, you probably already know that not all that sleep takes place at night.
If you have a very young toddler (aged between one year and 18 months), they may take two naps a day. However, as your toddler gets older, they should transition into one nap per day. In a lot of cases, that nap will take place in the afternoon. Depending on how much they sleep at night, your toddler may nap for between one and three hours.
Is it necessary for my toddler to nap?
Sleep is the time when a lot of your toddler's growth takes place. Both their mental and physical development improves when they're in a state of slumber. Naptime also helps your toddler's memory develop. Pre-schoolers who nap regularly are more likely to beat their peers in memory games.
Much like adults, children who don't get enough sleep tend to overeat. Tiredness makes you reach for more food. Toddlers may start eating more for energy increases rather than because they're genuinely hungry.
Finally, toddlers who don't reach their minimum sleep quota are more likely to feel moody. Much like adults, a lack of sleep makes them irritable and anxious. Unlike adults, they cannot regulate their emotions. That's why a toddler who's lacking in sleep is more likely to throw a tantrum than one who is well-rested.
When may my toddler need to nap more often?
One key time when your toddler is more likely to need a nap is when they're feeling unwell. If your baby's temperature rises, that's a sign they have an infection. During any infective period, their bodies burn through more energy. To make fighting off a toddler temperature easier, they'll probably sleep more than normal.
Understandably, seeing your child with a fever and feeling sleepy can make you worry. You may want to monitor your toddler for a high temperature while they're unwell. If your toddler's temperature rises over 40 degrees Celsius, speak to a medical professional. Most of the time, it's perfectly safe to keep your toddler at home. If your doctor believes the fever is too high, they can call you in for further evaluation.
What temperature is a fever for a child?
Your toddler's normal body temperature should be 37 degrees Celsius or below. If it rises above 37.5 degrees Celsius, they have a low-grade fever. When it rises above 38 degrees Celsius, they have a high temperature. Any fever that reaches above 40 degrees Celsius is a cause for concern. However, if you feel your toddler is napping excessively and they have a fever of any kind, always speak to a medical professional for advice.
How can I make naptime more comfortable for my child?
When your child has a high temperature, they may sometimes feel too uncomfortable to nap. As sleep is important for their recovery, it's a good idea to help. Handy ways to make your toddler feel more comfortable when they have a fever include:
- Dress them in light clothing
- Use light bedding
- Give them a lukewarm bath
- Use children's paracetamol to lower their fever
- Use a Fevermate strip to make them more comfortable
My child is resisting naps, what should I do?
If your child resists naps, it's important to remember that sleep is crucial for their development. If they don't hit their quota, they may feel overtired and cranky. Ironically, being overtired is a common cause of nap resistance. Fortunately, there are steps you can take as a parent to make napping easier.
Check their sleep environment
If nap resistance is a new phenomenon in your household, check their sleep environment. A child who is sleeping in an uncomfortable environment isn't likely to sleep well at all. Check for the following problems:
- Is the room too hot or too cold? A temperature between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius is ideal for a toddler.
- Is there light seeping in? Blackout blinds make a world of difference for most toddlers.
- Are there any distractions? Noises from the room next door and tempting toys make sleep difficult.
- Is their bedding too heavy or too light? Always make sure you adjust the tog according to the season.
Watch out for overtiredness
Toddlers are excellent at resisting sleep when they're overtired. Being overtired affects your toddler's mental state. As a result, they become more resistant to sleep.
Your toddler may become overtired when your routine doesn't allow them to nap. For example, if you're out of the house from the late morning to early afternoon, they could become too tired to nap. Try adjusting your schedule to see if it has a positive impact.
Create a naptime routine
Even if your toddler didn't need a naptime routine before, they may want one now. As they grow older, your toddler will crave a routine as a way of relaxing. Creating a routine helps them understand when it's time to sleep. As a result, they have an easier time transitioning into a restful state.
Easy ways to establish a routine include:
- Schedule naps for the same time every day. Doing so trains your toddler's brain for sleeping. Try not to schedule the nap too late in the afternoon, as they might not sleep at night.
- Spend 15 minutes relaxing before naptime. You could do this by reading a book or by listening to soothing music.
- Try burning off extra energy in the run-up to naptime. For example, play outside late into the morning.
Establishing the right nap routine isn't just beneficial for your toddler. It gives you a chance to rejuvenate too. With a few simple changes, you can help your toddler get the sleep they need.