Why toddlers consolidate naps between 12-18 months
Toddlers tend to transition to one nap between 12-18 months old. Their sleep needs continue to change as they have been throughout their life thus far.
Parents and caregivers may be reluctant to drop the morning nap because they don't think their little one is ready yet. While you know your child best, sometimes we need to take a look at the sleep facts, their sleep behavior, if there are any sleep interferences, and the science of sleep. Let's take a look at the facts, first.
Sleep facts by age
13-14 hours of sleep in 24 hours
3-4 hours of awake time if taking 2 naps
4.5-6 hours of awake time if taking 1 nap
11-12 hours of overnight sleep
2-3 hours of daytime sleep
13-13.5 hours of sleep in 24 hours
4.5-6 hours of awake time
11-12 hours of overnight sleep
1.5-2.5 hours of daytime sleep
Science behind consolidating to 1 nap
When your toddler is taking 2 naps a day and getting closer to 15-18 months, the tricky part is that 15-18 month olds need 4.5-6 hours of awake time between sleep. So if your little one takes a morning nap, they need a full 4.5-6 hours of being awake before sleeping again. Then he will need an afternoon nap to break up the time awake between the morning nap and bedtime so he's not overtired. Why not try to have your toddler take a shorter morning nap?
The issue here is that because toddlers need that full 1.5-3 hours of daytime sleep (depending on age) in order to get the needed sleep cycles to rest their brains, body, and help to retain information they've learned that day. If your little one takes two short naps, they are not getting the full sleep cycles that their body and brain needs. Then if they do take an afternoon nap there will need to be 4.5-6 hours of awake time before bedtime. So along with the needing a consolidated longer nap at this age, there also isn't enough time in the day to get those full awake windows plus two short naps or a short nap and a longer nap.
What to look for
Look for the signs of protesting the majority of naps for at least a week at a time.
Here are a few more signs:
Still taking 2 naps a day but taking fooooooorever to fall asleep at night
Still taking 2 naps a day but having multiple wake ups in the middle of the night
Still taking 2 naps a day but also waking up early in the morning
Only takes a short nap when they used to take longer naps
If you are worried or curious that your toddler is over or under tired, check out my blog to dive in deep!
How to transition to 1 nap
As your toddler transitions to one nap, you can begin to push the morning nap later by 15-30 minutes each day (or every 3 days if they are more sensitive to adjustments).
As you're shifting the morning nap into the afternoon nap, and if there is too much time between the end of the morning nap and bedtime, you can do a quick catnap (20-30 mins) in the afternoon to break up the day. I would not do a catnap later than 3:30pm, this also means they should be awake by 3:30pm if they take a catnap.
When your little one drops the morning nap, they may need to adjust bedtime. You can shift bedtime earlier/later by 15-30 minutes. A typical naptime for toddlers starts between 12/1pm. I would cap the nap at 3 hours at the latest, as long as it's not interfering with nighttime sleep.
We also want the end of the last nap to be about 3 hours before bedtime (this will change as they get older and is able to be awake for longer periods at a time). We also want your little one to have a full wake window, according to their age, between the end of the nap and bedtime.
If you feel like after reading this you know something needs to change, but not sure exactly HOW to do it, the HLO Sleep Solutions will take out all of the guesswork for you.
Our Sleep Solutions programs are personalized to your family and child(ren), with age appropriate feeding and sleep schedules.
In as little as 1-3 weeks, your family can achieve more enjoyable and less stressful bedtimes, longer stretches of nighttime sleep with less night wakings, improved naps, and you have a happy little one upon waking!
Here's where to start!
Anna works with families ready to transition to more independent sleep.
She is available to help your family get the sleep they deserve. Anna encourages you to follow Happy Little Ones on Instagram for more tips and tricks!
Ready for more sleep but not exactly sure on HOW to make the necessary changes? Schedule your free 15 minute sleep evaluation call to be one step closer to accomplishing your sleep goals.
Wondering what other families have experienced after working with me? Read before + after stories HERE!