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Written by Adeline
Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant
25 May 2024

Why Does My Baby Take Such Short Naps?

Is your baby taking cat naps of just 30 – 40 minutes during the day?

Insufficient daytime sleep can pose challenges, as it not only deprives baby of essential rest, it also leaves caregivers yearning for some personal time and the chance to tend to other tasks. If you find yourself nodding in agreement, let's explore the reasons behind those short naps and explore potential solutions.

Before we get started, it's essential to understand that babies, just like adults, cycle through periods of light and deep sleep. However, a crucial difference is that baby sleep cycles are notably shorter, typically spanning around 40 – 50 minutes. Now that we’ve got that established, let’s dive in!

1. Baby is not falling asleep where they are waking up

Ensuring your baby naps in their crib, in their room, is crucial for fostering extended and restful daytime sleep. Consider this scenario: imagine falling asleep in your bedroom, only to wake up hours later in your car or living room. Would you easily settle back into sleep, or would you be startled and need some clarity before relaxing again? It’s a similar situation for babies too! When they doze off in your arms or stroller, and then find themselves awake in their crib at the end of their first sleep cycle, they can have a very hard time returning to sleep.

Whenever possible, aim to place your baby in their crib while they are still awake, allowing them to fall asleep in the same environment where they will awaken. Establishing this association can facilitate their ability to resume sleep if they wake up or stir at the end of a sleep cycle.

2. Dependency on Sleep Props

While it might seem helpful to soothe your baby to sleep with rocking or nursing, reliance on these props can backfire. When your little one associates sleep with external aids, they struggle to self-soothe when transitioning between sleep cycles. This is because when they wake up from the end of the first sleep cycle, they would need that prop again in order to get back to sleep. Encouraging independent sleep can foster longer, uninterrupted naps.

3. Overtiredness

Contrary to intuition, an overtired baby may struggle to settle into a deep sleep. Keeping a close eye on how long your baby has been awake for, and your baby's tired cues can prevent them from becoming overly fatigued, promoting better daytime rest.

4. Sleep Environment

Naps are generally harder than night time sleep. In the day, there is generally lower sleep pressure for human beings, than at night time. There is sunlight and there is usually more stimulation in the day. As such, creating a conducive sleep environment for babies to settle easily for their naps is crucial.

Darkness is extremely important in promoting good sleep. It promotes melatonin levels (our sleep hormone), and helps sleep to come more easily. As such, having blackout curtains/blinds is essential.

Having a white noise machine can help neutralize sudden and unwanted noises from outside your baby’s room (eg traffic, construction work, clanging of pots and pans in the kitchen etc) and hopefully prevent them from waking baby if she happens to be in a light stage of sleep at that time.

Ultimately, teaching your baby how to fall asleep on her own would be the best solution to getting baby take good long naps. And when your baby sleeps well in the day, this can translate to improved nighttime sleep as well. We are here to help you with that if you need it.

Article written by Adeline
Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant
Based in Singapore
Trained in the Sleep Sense Program

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