How do you know if your child is ready for one nap? Sleep expert give tips to ease the 2 to 1 nap transition

04/13/2017 04:03 pm ET

Transitions can challenge both kids and their parents! Shifting from a morning and afternoon nap to just one nap a day can stump parents and lead to a deterioration of both day and night sleep. No need to feel intimidated though. These tips will help you and your child sail through the transition with ease!

  1. Time it right. The average age for the transition to one nap is 15-18-months. Usually your child shifts to one afternoon nap starting between 12:00-1:00 p.m., in sync with internal biological rhythms, or his internal sleep clock.
  2. Don’t jump the gun too early. Just because your friend’s children are transitioning to one nap does not mean your child is ready. If you try to shift too soon, you risk an accumulation of sleep deficits which can lead to more daytime melt-downs and night wakings.
  3. Recognize signs your child may be ready for one nap which include:
  • They consistently refuse one nap — but consistently means over for several weeks, not just a day or two.
  • One nap -- usually the afternoon nap -- becomes much shorter over a period of a few weeks and not just occasionally.
  • The timing changes for a nap: the otherwise predictable nap schedule starts to go haywire with your child napping at different times, and often too late in the day.

4. Transition slowly. The transition to one nap may take a few weeks, even more, and can become a challenge since your child is getting less sleep. But you can ease the transition with the following techniques:

  • Cap the morning nap. Offer your child a morning nap at the usual time, sometime around 9-9:30 a.m, but cap the nap to 30-45 minutes. Continue to decrease the length of this nap by 15 minutes over the course of a couple weeks. This cat nap in the morning can help prevent your child from becoming too tired before it’s time for the longer afternoon nap.
  • Aim to start the main nap of the day between 12:00-1:00 p.m. This time is in sync with his circadian rhythms, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. If you have capped the morning nap, then the afternoon nap should be an hour or more. Once the morning nap is phased out completely after a couple weeks, the one midday nap should last about 2 hours.
  • Compensate for less daytime sleep with an earlier bedtime -- temporarily. This may mean a 5:30-6:00 p.m. bedtime during the transition. Once your child has successfully shifted to one nap, you can shift bedtime later again so that it is about 4-4.5 hours after the end of the nap. So, if she naps from 1-3:00 p.m., then bedtime can be about 7:00-7:30 p.m.

Transitions call for a change of daily routines. Don’t worry if your toddler doesn’t switch to the new schedule immediately. The change is part of the natural growth process which, like most of parenting takes time, consistency, and patience!

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