The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers


Solving Nap Time Problems

Naps are important for your child’s healthy mental and physical growth. A daily nap refreshes a child so that she can maintain her energy, focus, and ability to learn for the rest of the day. Studies show that children who nap are more flexible and adaptable, have longer attention spans, and are less fussy than those who don’t nap.

Does your child needs a nap?

Here are signs that your child would benefit from a daily nap:

  • Wakes up happy, but gets whiny and cranky as the day progresses
  • Has patience early in the day but is easily aggravated later on
  • Cries more easily in the afternoon and evening than in the morning
  • Has an afternoon or evening slump, but then gets a second wind
  • Yawns, rubs eyes, or fusses while getting ready for bed
  • Often falls asleep in the car or when watching a movie

How much naptime does your child need???

Children differ in their sleep needs ~ but what follows is a general guide that applies to most of them. Even if your child’s sleep hours add up to the right amount, his behavior tells you more than any chart could. When in doubt – always try for a nap, since even some quiet time can help a child feel more refreshed.

Average hours of daytime and nighttime sleep

Number of naps
Total length of naptime hours
Nighttime sleep hours*
Total of nighttime and naptime sleep
Newborns sleep 
16 – 18 hours daily,
spread over 6 – 7
sleep periods.  
3 months
5 – 6
10 – 11
6 months
3 – 4
10 – 11
14 – 15
9 months
2 ½ – 4
11 – 12
12 months
2 – 3
11 ½ –12
13 ½ –14
18 months
2 – 3
11 ¼ -12
13 – 14
2 years
1–2 ½
13 – 13 ½
2 ½ years
1 ½ -2
11–11 ½
13 – 13 ½
3 years
1–1 ½
11 –11 ½
12 – 13
4 years
0 -1
0 -1
11–11 ½
11 – 12  ½
5-6 years
0 -1
0 -1
11 – 12
*These averages don’t signify unbroken stretches of sleep since night waking is normal.
© Elizabeth Pantley, The No-Cry Sleep Solution and The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers & Preschoolers (McGraw-Hill)

Timing and length of naps

The timing of naps is important, since a nap that occurs late in the day will prevent your child from being tired at bedtime. Generally, the best nap times are:

  • If your child takes two naps: midmorning (around 9:00 to 11:00) and early afternoon (around 12:00 to 2:30)
  • If your child takes one nap: early afternoon (around 12:00 to 2:30); after lunch

If your child tends towards short naps, don’t give in and assume that it’s all she needs. Try these tips for increasing the length of naps:

  • Give your child a healthy lunch or snack a half hour before nap.
  • Keep the sleeping room dark.
  • Play soothing music or white noise during the entire nap.
  • Dress her in comfortable sleeping clothes
  • Make certain that discomfort from teething, allergies or other health issues aren’t preventing a nap. If you suspect problems, talk to your health care professional.
 Watch for signs of tiredness

Tired children fall asleep easily, but when you miss the signals, they become overtired and are unable to fall asleep. Your child may show one or more of these signs that tell you he is tired and ready to nap – right now:

  • losing interest in playtime
  • becoming whiny, cranky or fussy
  • losing patience with toys, activities or playmates
  • having tantrums
  • rubbing his eyes or yawning
  • lying down or slumping in his seat
  • caressing a lovey or blanket
  • asking for a pacifier, bottle or to nurse

The nap routine

Once you’ve created a nap schedule that works with your child’s periods of tiredness, follow a simple but specific nap routine. Your child will be most comfortable if there is a pattern to his day. He may come to predict when his naptime approaches and willingly cooperate with you.

Nap routines change

Children’s sleep needs change over time, so remember that the routine that you set up today won’t be the same one you’re using a year from now. Be adaptable!

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers (McGraw-Hill, 2005).

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