Ahhhh, short naps. Every parent's dream. They visit many and they visit often. And they are as obnoxious as anything....especially if you have just spend the last hour trying to get baby to go to sleep! Am I right?
Short naps, sometimes called the 45 minute intruder due to their length, are especially difficult if you are trying to establish a
routine or if you find your child is constantly waking up unhappy (a common sign that she hasn't had enough sleep).
Here are some possible reasons that your baby may be waking early from naps. Not all children will extend their naps (it is a genetic thing), but it is worth a shot!
- Your child is overtired. The waketime length may have been too long before his nap. Overtired children often sleep for less time and have a harder time making it through a sleep transition. Overtiredness is very common and is more likely to be the problem with the morning nap and babies under 2-3 months of age. It isn't uncommon for a baby to wake up 15-30 minutes into a nap if he is overtired.
- Your child is hungry. He could not have eaten as much as he usually eats when he last ate (e.g. he was too sleepy, he didn't feel well) or he could be in a growth spurt.
- Your child was overstimulated before nap time. Were you out and about doing a bunch of new things that may have overwhelmed your baby and been a little too much for him? You may want to try an extra long, soothing pre-naptime routine.
- Your child has a disrupted sleep routine. A disrupted routine could include something that happened the current day or the even the night or day before. While some children don't mind a few disruptions, other children are very affected by them.
- Your child has an inconsistent or nonexistent routine. A child that has an inconsistent or nonexistent routine does not have consistent internal rhythms to help him know when he should be sleeping and for how long. See Why have a schedule/routine?
- Your child has a hard time transitioning from light to deep sleep. This is very common with overtired babies and babies that are unable to initially go to sleep on their own (see sleep props/associations--pacifiers, feeding to sleep etc.), but is still very common among babies that are able to initially go to sleep on their own. An awakening would happen around 35-50 minutes (and lengthens to 90 minutes by the time they reach adolescence) which is how long the first sleep cycle typically lasts. Short naps due to these awakenings often (but not always) start around 2-3 months of age as the sleep cycle changes (see understanding sleep stages). See Sleep Training in the blog index and the post extending a short nap for ideas on how to get your baby to sleep longer for naps (this can be used for babies of any age depending on what method you are using and what your personal preferences are).
- Something woke your child up like a loud neighbor or traffic (see Sound And Its Effect On Sleep). If this is the case then try to keep things quiet during your babies nap periods, especially as he goes through sleep transitions. You may also want to consider getting a sound machine.
- Ford believes that one of the most common causes of short naps is a light room (see Light And Dark And Their Effects on Sleep). I have found this to be true for many children.
- Your child is under tired and/or under stimulated. Some babies will wake up early from a nap if they are put to sleep too early or have too little stimulation or physical activity before the nap (e.g. you do errands all day and your child never has the chance to move around). Most of the time in this is not the case with newborns.
- Your child is getting too much day time sleep or night time sleep. This goes along with the last comment. Add up your child's daytime sleep and see how it compares to the average daily sleep (see Daytime Sleep - What's Average?). See how your child's night time sleep (see Night Time Sleep - What's Average?) compares with the average night sleep. Even if children seem to need sleep at these times and sleep well, they still sometimes need to be weaned a bit from sleep during the day or night so it can be redistributed elsewhere. See Total Sleep - What's Average?
- Your child is newly aware of his environment. This often causes nap disruption for several days around 3-4 months of age. Double check to make sure there is a good sleep environment (noise, light etc)
- Your baby was transitioning from one sleep stage to the next and made a sound and you thought baby was done napping before he actually was. Make sure you allow a few minutes to see if baby will go back to sleep before rushing in or automatically assuming a nap has gone shorter than expected.
- Your child is learning a new skill. Children practice new skills (even when they can't quite do the skills yet) before they fall asleep and even in their sleep. Obviously if you're trying to crawl or walk when you should be sleeping it can cause some disruptions :)
- Your child is uncomfortable.
- Is his clothing itchy?
- Does he have eczema? Talk to your doctor about getting something to help if lotion doesn't fix the problem.
- Is his mattress uncomfortable? I suggest buying the best mattress you can afford and preferably a hypoallergenic one. If you are using a pack 'n play as a crib you can buy padded sheets and even put additional blankets for padding under the sheets (make sure it is SAFE).
- Is baby too hot or too cold? See Getting the Right Temperature.
- Is he in pain? **Does your young baby have gas? Gas is more likely to be the case if he wakes up around 20-30 minutes into a nap. If you think this is the case, burp your baby, help him calm down and then set him down to try and sleep again. **Is an older baby teething? **Is baby sick? **Does baby have acid reflux? **Does he have a diaper rash? ** I've noticed that some things that don't bother my son too much when he's awake (like teething) will be a bit more bothersome when he is trying to sleep since he doesn't have other things to take his mind off of the pain. You can all probably relate with this when you're trying to go to sleep and you notice your sore neck or back for the first time.
- Does he have a wet diaper? Some children are more sensitive than others and do better with diapers that are extra absorptive like huggies supreme. These unfortunately usually cost more. I would first try the next size up to see if this works.
- Does he have a dirty diaper? If he has a dirty diaper you obviously need to change it. Keeping with the eat/activity/sleep routine usually helps reduce dirty diapers during naps. For more on this, check out the post on poop and sleep.
- Is his tummy upset from something in mom's diet if she is breastfeeding or new solid foods that have been introduced? If your baby is formula fed he may be constipated (uncommon with breastfeeding).
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child states that until 21 months of age, some babies appear to take short naps no matter what you do. Your child, unfortunately, could be one of these babies. But don't just assume you've got one of these short nappers until you've considered possible causes and have consistently tried some suggestions on the post Extending a Short Nap. Many babies seem to start taking longer naps around 4-6 months either by themselves or with a little sleep training.
- If your child wakes up happy from his naps, sleeps well at night and is happy during his awake times then it's possible he doesn't need longer naps. Since more than a short nap is usually needed, I would personally be sure to rule out other things on this list before assuming he only needs a short nap.
- Is your baby taking SUPER SHORT NAPS? As in 15-30 minutes (or something like that). Here are some of the more common reasons for this:
- Pain. Does he have gas? Reflux?
- Overtiredness. What was his waketime before the nap? Has he had previous bad naps that day? Is he always missing naps and chronically overtired?
- Active sleep environment. Some babies do not sleep well if there is a lot of light, sound or movement (you are holding them and moving etc) when they are trying to sleep.
- Change in sleep environment. Did you hold or feed baby to sleep and he woke shortly after putting him down? Did you stop the car ride or turn off the swing? Some babies are very good at noticing the difference in how things feel the second, or several minutes after, you put them down or stop the movement.
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Extending a Short Nap
Eat/Wake/Sleep Routine and short naps