WHY Your Child Is Refusing to Nap


Setting the Scene

There’s nothing worse… you manage to get through the busy morning. Cereal on the floor, dishes everywhere, 20 laps of the living room to get your kid dressed, another 20 laps of the living room to get a nappy change. You push through with the knowledge that in a while, they will have a nap and you will get some well-earned peace and quiet. Whether that’s to sort the trail of morning destruction, or make a cuppa and catch up on TOWIE. Oh…. But wait…. They’re refusing to sleep. No break for me. No catchup on the housework so my organised brain will continue to be tormented for the rest of the day, my child will be grizzly until bedtime due to lack of sleep, and the entire day will become an effort much bigger than the morning shift.

Why I hear you shout?? Let me explain…


Nap Refusal Explained

There are several reasons why nap time can become a massive struggle resulting in a tired child taking over the entire day. Most parents won’t know that children aren’t actually designed to be awake for long periods of time. Depending on their age, their wakeful window recommendation could be as little as 1 hour or as long as 6 hours. This is key in planning for a nap schedule in the day.


If you are trying to encourage your child to have a nap and their wakeful window hasn’t even opened yet, then chances are, they are not going to comply and you will have a massive battle on your hands because they are simply not tired yet.

At the other end of the scale, if you miss the recommended window of sleep opportunity and take them beyond the length of time which we would normally be awake for, their bodies will start to produce hormones which will keep them awake because not being offered a nap until it’s too late will be confusing for their brain.


Second Wind

This is another familiar story which I experience almost daily… It’s the end of the day, the kids have gone to bed, most parts of me ache from being non stop the whole day and I long to sit down. My eyes are heavy and my motivation is non existent. I’m ready to collapse in a heap on the sofa with a hot cup of tea and some rubbish on the telly to numb my brain. Not a chance! There are dinner dishes to sort, lunches to prepare for the next day, the dog needs fed and walked, the online tesco shop needs to be completed before my basket closes at 11.45pm, I need to text my parents and organise babysitting duties for later in the week and I need to hang up the load of washing that has been sitting in the machine for the entire afternoon. So we push on. We get a second wind and we keep going.


This is exactly the same for your child.


If they aren’t offered their nap at the right time of the day, calculated from the time at which they have started the day, then they will too take on this “second wind” mode as their brain produces hormones to keep them awake as that is the signal they are effectively getting from mum and dad.


This is known as the dreaded overtiredness.


Nap Refusal = Overtiredness

Overtiredness is a state which occurs when a child/person is not achieving the regular sleep they require for growth and development. This is a state of sleep debt where you become trapped in a cycle of being behind on your sleep requirements.


An overtired child is likely to become difficult to settle as their body has been pumping out stimulating hormones to keep them awake, but mum is trying to put them to bed. It’s confusing.

An overtired child is likely to have disturbed sleep through the night as they will struggle to connect sleep cycles smoothly/achieve a deep state of sleep.


An overtired child is likely to have really early starts to the day because their natural sleep rhythm will become affected from not achieving enough sleep.

Nap refusal and overtiredness is one challenging combination for any parent!


Vital Self-Settling

Self-settling is a term which most parents will be familiar with. This is the art of putting oneself to sleep completely independently, without any reliance on :

Dummy/Being Rocked/Being Held/Co-sleeping/Feeding to Sleep

If your child isn’t currently practising self-settling skills due to any of the above, then this will also play havoc in their ability to settle to sleep at the right times.


I’m sure that if you have a child that will only fall asleep in your arms, you will have noticed a pattern of waking as soon as/soon after you place them down in their sleep space, thus sabotaging their precious sleep and your precious peace and quiet time.


If you fell asleep on the sofa all snuggled with nice pillows and a cosy blanket, and you woke up on your bedroom floor, you would be disorientated. Confused. Longing for all of the warm and cosy feels you had whilst drifting off into the land of nod. This is exactly how your child will react. The second they realise they aren’t in the comfort of your arms, they will put out distress signals to get that comfort back. By which point they are probably too worked up/upset to be able to settle back off to sleep… game over !


Nap Transitions

The final reason your child could be battling their nap is if they are at a sleep transition period. This occurs when developmentally, they don’t require as much sleep in the day and this gets added on to the period of night-time sleep instead, creating a more “grown up” sleep routine. If your child is recommended to have 3 naps per day, based on their sleep requirements as per their age bracket, and they are approaching a transition to 2 naps in the day, then you might notice that the last nap of the day becomes difficult and non-existent. This is a clear indication that your child is starting to get ready for a shift in their nap routine, which, with the right advice and information, will be smooth and simple.


The best way to tackle nap refusal is to consider all of the above. Ask yourself these questions.


*Is my child approaching a sleep transition?

*Is my child being offered a sleep quite soon after waking to start the day?

*Is my child being offered a sleep quite late after waking to start the day?

*Is my child successfully settling themselves to sleep at each sleep opportunity?



If you think you could use some help with finding the answers to these questions and getting the information you need to ensure your child’s sleep needs are being met, please get in touch to discuss your sleep challenges further and arrange your FREE no obligation Sleep Evaluation Call.

Fairy Sleep Mother

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