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, 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.
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Has too much nap time sleep ever been a problem at your house? How have you coped? Share your tips with our readers!
58 thoughts on “Is Your Baby or Toddler Napping Too Much?”
My daughter is 15 months and for the past month or two she’s been sleeping a ton! It was 7pm-7am and then a nap at noon for 2 hours but now she goes to bed around 7-7:30 and I have to go wake her up between 9-10 and she still naps for 2-3 hours. She can sleep for a total of 16-17 hours a day now. Is that concerning?
Hi @Megan – Thank you for writing! This is high on sleep needs for 15 months, but there can be a big variance in how much sleep each child needs. Is your little one is growing and developing well? This is a good indicator! If you are concerned, please check with your daughter’s pediatrician. They will know her best!
My 2 year old daughter recently started sleeping for 10-14 hours a night as well as napping for a total of 3-5 hours a day. I wasn’t worried at first because I figured maybe she is just growing. Now im concerned that she is sleeping “too much”. She doesn’t have any fevers, she eats normally but she seems to be very irritable during her woken hours. Could there be an underlying issue or is this normal?
Hi @Dacia Roy, thank you for writing to us. Since I don’t know your daughters full schedule (if she’s very active, in a new environment, etc) it is hard to say, but I would maybe mention it to your pediatrician to see if they have any suggestions. It could perhaps be a dietary thing as I know my almost 2 year old is VERY picky so it can be hard to make sure he gets all the nutrition he needs to have a good attitude/the energy to match his busyness – or maybe she is just going through a growth spurt. I’m sure her doctor would be able to offer advise since they have her medical history. I hope that helps and you get the answers you need soon!
Thank you! 🙂
@ Rae Lyn — good thinking! Glad that strategy helped. 🙂
I cut her nap down to a little over an hour and that seemed to help. She only woke up once last night around 4am.
@ Rae Lyn — have you done sleep training with your daughter before? If so, then I’d suggest simply re-trying some of the sleep training techniques you’ve used before to help get your daughter back on track.
If you need more insights into your little girl’s sleep (or lack of sleep, rather!), you can check out our free toddler sleep guide here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/toddler-sleep-training-secrets-free-ebook/
Thanks for commenting, Rae Lyn! And keep us posted on how things are going. 🙂
It’s possible. Back around Christmas and New Years, we had to make back to back trips from Tennessee to Michigan due to family illness and then a funeral. I know it was very hard on my LO as this was the first time being away from home for that period of time. I just don’t know how to get back on track. She has a fairly regular routine.
@ Rae Lyn — So it sounds like this is a new problem, then? Could be that she went through a sleep regression, or a phase, or experienced some teething/illness, and got off track and has never gotten back on. Do you think something like that may have happened?
My daughter is almost 17 months old and has not been sleeping through the night for a couple months. She wakes up 1-2 times every night anywhere between 1am-3am and wants a feeding at least once. She takes only 1 nap a day for about 1-2 hrs. She has no issue napping, its just bedtime. She used to sleep through the night with no feedings and no waking and I’m. Not sure what is causing the problem.
@ Heather — honestly, I’m not sure. I’m not a trained sleep consultant, and I don’t know the history of your twins’ sleep, so I can’t provide any specific, tailored insights here.
In general, I’d say that if shifting their naps is working okay for you, and for the girls, then there’s probably no harm in it. But if it’s not working for you, or if it doesn’t seem to be working for the girls, then you may want to try to carve out a more structured daytime schedule and then stick with that.
Sorry I can’t give you more specific advice, Heather! But really, I’m not the best person to do that, since I haven’t been through the kind of training that our sleep consultants have.
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