Ditching the Day Nap

9 January 2017

Ditching the Day Nap

Yikes I hear you say, at just the thought of doing away with those sacred few hours of down time will send a shudder down your spine? I know it did with my eldest two kids and right now I’m going through it with my 2 year old so what perfect timing!

This is probably one of the most dreaded and feared parts of raising a toddler and one that causes huge debate and much confusion among many parents.

I work extensively with toddlers and pre-school children and one of the main causes of poor night sleep is ‘under tiredness’ simply caused by too much day sleep. Once rectified and parents have come to terms with the loss or reduction of their toddler’s nap, significant changes and improvements are seen almost straightaway.

Here I will cover everything from why, when and most importantly how to transition your toddler out of their day nap.

Why drop the day nap?

Firstly I need to cover the all-important question of ‘why ‘and shed some light on your child’s biological changes and their sleep requirements.

Up until 2.5 years of age (this can vary) children need approx 11-12 hours of sleep at night and about 60-90 mins of day sleep, known as the day/night sleep quota.  As children get older and mature their sleep quota changes and their need for day sleep decreases.

So in simpler terms if your child is having too much day sleep and has reached the age that he/she no longer needs it, it will start to impact on their night sleep quota. Over time this can have dire consequences for bedtime and will leave your child having less and less sleep at night and in turn utilise the day nap as a way to compensate for this.

Signs to look out for

Most toddlers drop their day nap anywhere between 2yrs 3 months and 2yrs 9 months but typically  most start to show sign of readiness around 2 ½ years. Be warned it can suddenly happen when you least expect it and things can sometimes change overnight.

Here are some typical signs your toddler is ready:

  • Takes a long time to fall asleep in the evening (1-2 hours), appears revved up and ready to party! The results of an under tired toddler.
  • Refuses the day nap altogether or takes a long time to fall asleep and it gets later and later.
  • Starts to wake earlier in the mornings and refuses to resettle, appears very alert, happy and wide awake.
  • Starts to crave a longer, later and deeper day nap, appears groggy, grumpy and irritable after the nap and may take a while to fully wake up .
  • May be awake in the middle of the night for several hours (commonly between 1-4am) and appear wide awake, active and ready to play.
  • You notice a big difference in their night sleep after a day of no sleep or a shorter nap.

If your child has been consistently experiencing any of these signs for more than 3-4 weeks, it’s a sure sign your child is ready and you will need to start implementing some changes. 

Cutting out the day nap

This is by far the hardest transition your toddler will make and may take several weeks of planning,  the best way to approach it is to phase it out gradually.

Here is a simple manageable guide that works well:

Week 1-2 – restrict your toddler to just 1 hour of sleep per day

Week 2-4- offer a power nap of 45 mins in either the car or buggy only , this will be a less restorative nap but will help tie your toddler over till bedtime.

Week 4-6 – offer a power nap every other day until your child starts to increase their night sleep quota.

Subsequent weeks: - Bring bedtime forward by 30-40 mins to prevent over tiredness and to maximise your child’s night sleep quota.

Top Tip

Choose a time to tackle it when you have the motivation and energy to see it through. If your child attends Day-care inform the staff of what you are planning so they can support your decision too.

During the first few weeks your toddler will appear ‘out of sorts’ and you may need to bring bedtime forward to prevent over tiredness.

On no nap days, avoid late afternoon trips in the car at all costs as it’s likely he/she will fall asleep which will have dire consequences for bedtime!

Ensure your child’s bedroom is dark enough to optimise melatonin production maximise your child’s sleeping potential.

Avoid dropping the day nap if your child is about to start Daycare or Kindy as he/she may be more tired than usual.

Once you have made the switch to no day nap you will notice your child’s night sleep should become, deeper, longer and more restorative giving you the chance for a longer less disruptive evening.


If you are worried about making the transition and would like further support, why not try out my phone consult option for great tips, advice and peace of mind.