Napping patterns in the third year

Trying to wrangle a cranky, tired toddler isn’t much fun for you, and certainly isn’t much fun for them. Every toddler’s sleep pattern is different, but one similarity most of them share is that, during the third year, naps still tend to be a good way to keep that cranky, sleepy feeling at bay. 

Naps as part of the bigger picture

During this year, their sleep needs will drop a little – the National Sleep Foundation recommends that 2-year-olds get between 11 and 14 hours of sleep in every 24 hours, and that 3-year-olds get between 10 and 13 hours of sleep every 24-hours. This slight drop in sleep may mean that they need slightly less sleep at night, slightly less sleep from naps during the day, or both. Most toddlers Baby’s age do continue to need naps through this year, and only start to live the nap-less life sometime between the ages of 3 and 5. During this year, most toddlers will still take either one or two naps during the day, and will get somewhere between 1 and 3 hours of sleep. 

Toddlers around this age who take one nap a day usually nap in the early to mid afternoon – not too late, or it can start to interfere with nighttime sleep. Toddlers who still take two naps in a day often nap once in the late morning, and then again in the mid-afternoon.

A nap-drop

If Baby is still taking two naps during the day when they turn two, there’s a good chance that they are going to be ready to drop down to just one nap during the day sometime over the course of the year. They might start to show that they're ready to shift to a low-nap-intensity schedule by taking longer and longer to fall asleep for their first nap of the day, or by waking up from that first nap sooner and sooner. One or two days of a shorter morning nap doesn’t mean it’s time for a nap-drop, but if a shorter and shorter morning nap starts to become a pattern, it may be time.

Many children do best with a more gradual shift in napping, changing their sleep schedules slowly, maybe by 15-minute or half-hour increments in a day. You can drop one nap by either cutting out the morning nap and shifting the afternoon nap earlier, or by pushing the morning nap gradually later, and cutting out the afternoon nap. The other piece of making sure your toddler is still getting enough sleep on a reduced-nap schedule is that most toddlers also need a slightly earlier bedtime to make up the difference in their sleep schedules.

  • National Sleep Foundation. “National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times.” Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation, February 2 2015. Retrieved June 14 2017.
  • Rupal Christine Gupta. “Naps.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, April 2016. Retrieved June 14 2017.
  • “Sleep in Toddlers & Preschoolers.” Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved June 14 2017.
  • “How Long Should My Toddler Sleep?” Sleep.Org. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved June 14 2017.
  • “Toddlers and Napping: How Much Is Normal?” Sleep.Org. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved June 14 2017. 

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