I know. Some of you are probably laughing hysterically at the title of today’s article. Too much nap time sleep?! Lots of you would probably give anything to have that the problem in your house!
And we understand that. Most of the parents we work with have babies and toddlers who struggle with nap time sleep, and who need to take longer, more restorative naps. Those babies and toddlers desperately need a solid daytime nap schedule to help them get the nap time sleep they need.
Still, a number of parents end up asking themselves the “is my child sleeping too much?” question at one point or another. After all, as a new parent, we don’t always know what our nap expectations should be! a baby or toddler who spends long periods napping each day may not have time to work on the gross motor and cognitive skills they need to be developing. And, a baby or toddler who naps a lot could wake more frequently at night.
So, how much nap time sleep is too much? Let’s answer that.
Nap Time Sleep in the Newborn Stage (Birth – 4 months)
Here’s the thing to remember about newborns: they sleep A LOT, and that’s fine. At this stage, it’s very normal for newborns to sleep anywhere from 14 – 18 total hours during the day, and for their wake time to be an hour to 30 minutes (or even less.) As your baby grows, this wake time should lengthen, and their total amount of sleep should gradually decrease.
For these reasons, our general recommendation to parents of newborns is to let the baby sleep as long as she needs to, and to not impose any kind of rigid schedule. That said, there are two times that we recommend parents wake their newborns from long naps. First, you’ll want to wake your newborn from long sleep if your newborn seems to have day/night confusions. In order to help your newborn sort out day and night, he needs to be awake during the day for his internal clock, or circadian rhythms, to adjust to life outside the womb. Therefore, our consultants recommend limiting one nap to two hours and keep your baby up for at least 30 minutes to an hour to help “reset” his clock.
Second, you’ll want to wake your newborn from long sleep if he is not waking to feed. It’s normal for newborns to have one longish stretch of sleep each day (hopefully it happens at night!), but aside from that, your newborn should wake every 2-3 hours to feed. If your newborn isn’t waking this often to feed, then wake him yourself; it’s important that newborns eat round the clock in order to grow properly.
Nap Time Sleep in the Baby Stage (4-12 months)
Starting around 4 months (could be 3 months for some babies, or 5 months for others), you’ll notice your baby’s sleep patterns start to change. Your baby will start spending more time awake and less time asleep. This is normal. In fact, there’s a name for it — the 4 month sleep regression!
When your baby is sleeping 13-15 hours per day, this is within normal ranges for a very long time. If your baby is sleeping less, this may or may not be enough sleep. Depending on your baby’s age, a typical baby will sleep 11-12 hours at night and 2-3 hours during the day. Since averages are just those, your baby may indeed need more like 12 hours at night and 4 hours of sleep during the day. This is unlikely to be a cause for concern. It is a lot of sleep, but a great 12-hour night sleeper and two two-hour naps are fantastic and there is still enough up-time to learn all the wonderful skills such as rolling, crawling, walking, and talking. She likely needs more time to process all of it and simply needs more sleep than other babies her age. Watching her behavior when she is up is a good sign everything is okay.
However, what should you do if your baby is napping too much, and that’s causing her to wake too frequently at night? Remember that after the newborn stage, your baby’s napping should not surpass 3 hours total for a day, on average. Of course, there will be exceptions, but many times if naps get too long during the day, it will impact night sleep, since the amount of total sleep in a day will remain relatively constant. If you feel bad waking your baby because she is sleeping horribly at night, but let her make up a lot of lost sleep during the day, it could reinforce the very sleep problems you are trying to resolve at night. It can become a chicken and egg problem. Instead, you should solve the night sleep problem and keep naps properly balanced. After all, night sleep is more restorative.
Nap Time Sleep in the Toddler Stage (12 months – 3 or 4 years)
As your little one enters toddlerhood, his sleep needs will gradually begin to decrease. At this point, most of his sleep should be happening at night, and he should be awake for most of the day. Naps will still happen, of course, but the large majority of his sleep should occur at night.
But remember, just as it’s normal to have toddlers who can sleep 12 hours at night and take a 3 hour nap, there are also toddlers who sleep 11-12 hours at night and take a 1-2 hour nap. Again, there is a wide range of “normal” and the only reason for concern would be if your toddler sleeps so much that she doesn’t have time for gross motor activity or spending awake time with you where she can learn to communicate and other life skills.
However, if you find that your toddler is taking extremely lengthy naps each day, and isn’t sleeping well at night, you may need to wake him from those naps. You may also want to consider waking your child at the same time each morning, even if he’s had a sleepless night the night before. If you have a toddler schedule that is being thrown off with a long night-waking, or insomnia, in the middle of the night, the worst thing you can do is let her sleep in the next morning. Now, I don’t mean one-off day here or there. Of course, then, you’d let her sleep in. What I mean is if your toddler is staying awake for long periods night after night, you need to be proactive and help her sort out her schedule. Although there are a few exceptions, long waking at night is usually caused by a schedule problem, especially if she is sleeping enough, but in multiple fragments. When you let her sleep in, this only exacerbates the schedule problem.
All in all, having a good daytime schedule will go a long way towards helping your child sleep through the night.
A Reminder: Follow Your Instincts, and Seek Medical Care if Necessary
We can’t end the article without saying this: there are cases (rare though they may be) in which too much sleep can signal an underlying medical problem. So parents, follow your instincts. If you know your baby or toddler is sleeping too much, and you think a medical condition might be to blame, don’t hesitate to see a healthcare provider.
If You Need Sleep Help, We Are Here For You!
Schedule problems are SO frustrating – all of us who at The Baby Sleep Site® know that first-hand, because we’re all parents! Fortunately for you, we’re here to help. If you’re struggling with nap schedules and napping issues, our consultants are ready to help you! Browse our list of consultation packages, and choose one that suits your needs.
Browse our list of consultation packages here.
58 thoughts on “Is Your Baby or Toddler Napping Too Much?”
Hi again Emily,
Rereading my post it does sound complicated-I guess I should have just wrote my question which is, in your opinion and from your experience helping other parents is it wise to move or change nap times in order to get 2 naps if you know it isn’t time to transition them yet (they’re only 11 mos). I’ve been moving nap time back and forth by 15-30 in order to get 2 naps in and to make sure they are tired enough. Is that recommended?
The girls do well sleeping through the night since 4 1/2 months, just getting up a little early lately…
Thanks for your help.
@ Katie — I’m no sleep consultant, but I’d suggest trying one nap, instead of 2. The average age for making the 2-to-1 nap transition is 15-18 months. That would cut down on his naptime sleep a bit, and would move his nap to the middle of the day, which would mean he’d have more awake time between his nap and bedtime. Those factors could combine to make his nighttime sleep longer.
You can read more about nap transitions here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-naps-2/how-to-manage-baby-toddler-nap-transitions/
Thanks for commenting, Katie! 🙂 (And great name, by the way — it’s my daughter’s! One of my favorites.)
@ Heather — you’ve got a lot of variables here (twins, tricky naps, early rising, problems falling asleep at bedtime), and since I’m not a trained sleep consultant, I can’t provide a solution that’ll fix all of them. I can only offer very general guidance.
My recommendation would be to check our our consulting services (https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/) and see which of those packages would suit you best. As a member, you receive 20% off the cost of any consultation. Truly, if you want an outside opinion, and someone to walk you through the steps you’ll need to take to get your twins sleeping better, this is the route to go.
Thanks for commenting, Heather! And keep us posted on how things progress.
I read this article hoping it would help me with my 15-month-old son. He naps well, usually 1.5-2 hours in the morning and afternoon. He goes to bed fine around 8 (or a little earlier), but he’s been waking super early – around 5:30, sometimes even earlier. Are his naps too long for a toddler his age? Or is he going to bed too late? He wakes up sleepy, too, so I know he could use more nighttime sleep. What needs to change so that he naturally sleeps later in the mornings? Thanks!
I am a member of the baby sleep site and have read all the articles on baby sleep and seem to be getting more confused and frustrated the more I read…I think I need an outsider to look in and maybe see what I am missing…
Naps were going pretty well for my twin 11 month olds (wake up at about 6:30, nap [email protected]:30/9:45 (1 hr, 10min), nap 2 at 1:30/2-3:330), then they were taking too long to fall asleep and crying and protesting so I assumed after much researching that they needed more awake time & maybe they were starting to transition to 1 nap, so I moved naptime by 15 mins for a few days until I was putting them down at 9:50/10 instead of 9:20/9:30. The same thing was happening with their afternoon naps, it went from 1:30, to 2, to 2:15, to 2:45, til I was putting them down as late as 3 (they’d sleep-2:45/3-4/4:15), then moving bedtime a little later so I was getting 2 naps in.
So one of my questions is; are you supposed to or should you do that? Move naptimes so they are at least getting 2-1 hr naps or should you leave them alone and if they are “skipping one” or not settling down for one without much protest should I have cut that out and moved their pm nap up? I know all babies are different and they are SO many variables (sleep regression, learning a new skill, hunger, transitioning to one nap etc..) I just want to know how to help my kids. Their nighttime sleep is tricky now too! If they wake too early in the am is it because bedtime was too early or too late? (they used to go down at 6:40 without a problem, now I put them down closer to 7) It’s hard to tell if they are over or under tired! Or are they just adjusting-I know it says it takes 1-2 weeks. But what if they are accumulating sleep debt in the meantime (last night one twin only got 101/2 hrs of sleep (norm is 11-11 ½) 7:30 when she finally settled even though I put her down at 7 until 5:50am)? HELP please! Not sure what to do?!?!
@ Helen — I wouldn’t say you’ve done anything wrong. It’s not uncommon for a baby who naps well to have trouble sleeping at nice (and vice versa.) Naptime and nighttime sleep are very different, and are actually controlled by different parts of the brain.
It could simply be that she’s waking from habit (that’s what it sounds like to me.) If this is the case, then it probably has little to do with her naps and more to do with her learned sleep behaviors.
Have you checked out our free guide yet? (https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook/) That’s a good place to start, if you need ideas about how to encourage your baby to sleep better at night. We have paid e-books too, and consulting services, but most people like to begin with the free guide.
Thanks for commenting, Helen! And keep us posted on what happens 🙂
Interesting, Im having the exact same problem with my 6.5 month old. Settles beautifully during the day & usually has 2 x 1.5 hour naps per day. However, at night won’t settle without shushing / patting. Though I try to leave the room before she falls asleep.
She is then waking every 2 hours at night. I really don’t understand what the difference is as she has a routine we’ve been following since she was six weeks – bath, massage, BF, stories, bed – asleep 7/7.30. She’s waking for comfort & the only way to settle her is to latch her on, even tho she’s not hungry enough to nurse. All these night problems started after I managed to sort her day sleeps out. I thought good day sleeps. = good night sleeps so Im confused about where I’ve gone wrong…
@ Laura — sounds like you’ve got your son’s sleep needs figured out! Good for you! It can take some time (and some trial and error) to arrive at those kinds of insights.
Thanks for commenting, Laura!
@ Kelly — I’m not a trained sleep consultant, but it sounds to me like your son’s nap probably isn’t too long. 1 – 2.5 hours is very, very reasonable for a toddler who’s 2 years & 3 months.
This could just be a phase. Is this bedtime resistance fairly new? You may want to check out this article for more insights into some of the sleep issues that tend to arise around the 2 year mark: https://www.babysleepsite.com/toddlers/5-things-about-2-year-old-toddler-sleep/
Of course, you could be absolutely right, and his nap could be the thing that’s making bedtime go haywire. You could always try waking him early from his nap (when it starts to get too long) and see what that does to bedtime.
Keep us posted on what happens, Kelly! And thanks for commenting. 🙂
@ Becky — thank you so much for this insightful tip! Very, very useful to those parents who are struggling with erratic waking. Thanks for commenting, Becky!
Yes, we have to wake my 2 year old up from him nap after an hour and 15 min MAX or he’ll just up tossing and turning in the middle of the night. My husband had a lot of sleep issues as a kid so we’ve been very proactive about our son’s sleep.
Now…if only my 2 year old would sleep all the night through without wanting us to fix his blanket or find his lion stuffed animal for him several times…sigh ;P
Comments are closed.