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Why Does My Baby Take Short Naps?

When your baby isn’t getting the sleep they need during the day, it’s just as big of a problem as when they aren’t getting enough sleep at night. They’re missing out on the sleep they need to grow and stay healthy, and you’re missing out on time to take care of things you need to take care of. Let’s be real…sometimes you just want to be able to take an uninterrupted shower!

If you can relate, this one’s for you. Let’s talk about the reasons why babies take short naps, and what you can do to extend that time a little bit longer…maybe even long enough for a bubble bath!

The thing is that everyone sleeps in cycles, regardless of their age. We all go from light sleep to deep sleep and then back to light sleep before waking up. That’s why it’s sometimes harder to wake up than others. If you’re in a stage of deep sleep, it’s a lot tougher when that alarm goes off!

While the cycle part is the same, baby sleep cycles are shorter than adult sleep cycles. An average baby sleep cycle is 40 to 50 minutes. 

Now let’s take a look at the causes and effects of these short naps.

Your baby wakes up somewhere other than where they fell asleep. 

Imagine falling asleep in your bed and waking up in your car. You’d need to figure out why that happened, right? Babies feel the same way! If they fall asleep in the car seat and then at the end of that sleep cycle find themselves in the living room with the television on, they can have a difficult time falling back asleep.

The solution here is to get the baby into the crib before they fall asleep, and then let them wake up in the same place. Their brain will learn to associate that as a sleeping place and when they start to stir a little at the end of a sleep cycle, they’ll fall back asleep easier.

Your baby needs a “prop” to get to sleep

This is a similar situation to the first one. If you’re helping your baby sleep by rocking, singing, or feeding them, they will learn to need that to fall back asleep at the end of the sleep cycle. Since that’s what they’re accustomed to, they have a hard time falling back asleep without the help of their caregiver. When that prop isn’t available to them, they get upset, cry, and then it’s impossible for them to continue on to the next sleep cycle.  

The best thing you can do is eliminate those sleep props to allow them to be in charge of getting themselves to sleep without the props. Let them fall asleep on their own in their crib, so that they are accustomed to falling asleep without help from caregivers.

Your baby is too tired to sleep

You’d think that a baby will just sleep when they’re tired, right? Actually, this is a huge misconception. If a baby is overtired, their tiny systems assume it’s for a reason. So the body tries to help out. It bumps up production of cortisol and stops melatonin secretion. Both of those things are barriers to deep and restful sleep. 

It’s not always possible because as parents we are busy, but the best way to combat this issue is to not let your baby get overtired. If your baby is consistently taking short 30 to 40 minute naps, it may be time to change your schedule a bit so that they can get into their crib before their body starts trying to help them stay awake.

Their napping environment isn’t very conducive to napping.

I’m sure that as an adult you’ve tried to take a nap during the day, and something interrupts you. Delivery people knock on the door, the road crews are repaving your street, someone’s dog is barking, the phone is ringing….etc. And let’s not forget that the sun is shining right in your window. Sunlight stimulates our bodies to produce cortisol, which keeps us awake. Because of all of this, daytime sleep is harder to come by than nighttime sleep. For everyone.

The best advice I can give for this one is to invest in a white noise machine and blackout blinds. That way, the sounds from the neighborhood are being drowned out and the room is nice and dark. You want it to be so dark in there that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Blackout blinds don’t have to be fancy, but they work wonders! If your schedule allows you daytime naps, you may want to get some for your bedroom, too! They’re also perfect for bedrooms with streetlights shining into them at night.

There’s a little bonus to solving daytime sleep issues, too. Once babies learn to self soothe, that’s a skill they’ll use around the clock. So solving daytime sleep issues also helps with nighttime sleep issues.

With great daytime sleep, they won’t be overtired at night either, which means it will be easier for them to get to sleep and stay asleep through the night. 

The only question left is what you’ll do with your free time when your baby is napping. Hello, uninterrupted shower!As always, if you need help getting your baby to take longer naps, getting rid of those pesky sleep props, or sleeping better throughout the night, I’m here to help. Schedule a sleep discovery call, and let’s get you both the restorative sleep you need!

Contact Tender Transitions

If you have any questions about these guidelines and why they are important for your family, please reach out.

Or if you’re struggling with getting a full night’s sleep and are worried about moving your child into their own room, we can help. We’ve worked with hundreds of families to create a smooth transition. A transition to a new room or the restorative transition of teaching your child to become independent sleepers. Book your free call today!

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