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Sleeping & Napping

Dear Debi,
My 23-month-old has recently stopped wanting to sleep in his crib. He will be sound asleep when we lay him down, but as soon as he touches the mattress, he wakes up. Why is he suddenly having a problem sleeping?
Kelley Barr
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Sleep needs differ & change as kids grow
  • Sleep patterns during the day affect nighttime sleeping routines
  • Childís behavior can give you signals that she needs a nap
  • Establish predictable sleep routines
Expert Advice
Dr. Leslie Richard
Dr. Leslie Richard
Pediatrician, mother of four
If a child is used to having certain conditions met as they fall asleep, then when he wakes up and notices the difference, heíll require you to recreate the conditions under which he fell asleep. The goal with children is to teach them to fall asleep on their own. You should slowly try to create a very pleasant bedtime routine that is consistent in terms of the time of day and whatís done before bedtime, whether itís a bath, story time, and a walk around the room. You also want to make sure that kids are tired, but not so tired that they become over-agitated and then have problems falling asleep. At 23 months, some children also want some independence, so you might want to explore getting a smaller railing for the side of the crib so that the child can climb in on his own and get himself to sleep.

Itís important for children to get enough sleep because sleep affects their behavior. A lot of growth and development happens during sleep and because kids are growing at such a rapid rate from early on, they need to be well rested.

As kids get older, they start to need less sleep. They start off sleeping most of the time when they are newborns, to spending more time awake when they are infants, to taking two naps during the day as toddlers, and then usually only needing one nap when theyíre of preschool age.

Sleep routines should be established starting from about the time children are 6 weeks old. A sleep routine will often follow when a feeding routine can be established. Because newborns are fed as they need to be, their feeding schedule tends to be more unpredictable. As theyíre able to stretch out the amount of time between feedings, theyíre able to sleep for longer periods of time. This doesnít mean that youíre imposing some kind of structured schedule on an infant. The most important thing is to develop some kind of routine around sleep. Things like baths, feedings, and soothing calming things can all be ways of establishing a bedtime routine. For older children, you can read a book or have a snack.

The number one sign that kids need a nap is crankiness Ė especially toddlers. This happens a lot around the age when children start to need less naps because parents are still trying to figure out how to adjust their naptime routine from 2 naps a day to 1 nap a day. Another sign is when kids just fall asleep regardless of what theyíre doing. Sometimes parents have a difficult time interpreting their childís behavior and confuse tiredness with throwing a tantrum. The important thing to do is to observe your child and try to figure out when she seems to have a hard time. You may find that itís when theyíre tired and they really need to take a nap. Remember, if a child has a later nap, they probably arenít going to go to sleep early at night. You should time naps around what your nighttime sleep goals are versus the other way around.

There should definitely be some kind of consistency between how kids sleep when they are with their caregivers and how they sleep when they are with their parents. One of the biggest challenges for families today is to be able to work out consistency between what happens during the week and what happens on weekends. Itís much easier for providers to establish a sleep routine during the week because itís all about the children. However, because most parents work during the week, they tend to have a lot planned for weekends so childrenís sleep routines tend to get disrupted. Parents should try to maintain that same schedule so that kids can continue to have predictable sleep time routines.
Child Care Provider Comments
Andre Wiseman
Andre Wiseman
Father of two
Sleeping can still be a challenge for me and my two-year-old son. During the day Iíll put in a Sesame Street video and tell him that he can watch this but he canít get out of the bed. By the time the video is over, heís asleep. At night we will have to lie down with him and tell him that itís OK to go to sleep. I incorporate music and song into his naps Ė even making him his own personal lullaby song.
Cathy Agnew
Cathy Agnew
Cares for her grandchildren, mother of two
Nap time usually isnít a struggle for me and my two-year-old. She knows her schedule so she goes to sleep with no problem. Sometimes, the four-year-old will want to play, but he will eventually go to sleep. I sometimes rock my grandkids to sleep. We listen to classic country music to calm them down. This helps them to sleep better.
Sonnia Corzo
Sonnia Corzo
Child care provider for 6 years, mother of four
The children in my care do nap during the day. In the beginning, itís hard to get them to nap. It has taken up to a month for me to get some children to nap. I donít actually tell the children that itís time to nap. I usually tell them, ďItís time to restĒ or ďItís quiet time.Ē I use soft music and I play it very low. I also have an aquarium in my center. The sound of water helps to calm them and put them to sleep. If some of the children are having a hard time napping, I have a basket filled with books, little puzzles, puppets, and stuffed animals that they can play with.

Sleep Time Routine Featured Activity:
Sleep Time Routine
Sleeping & Napping Featured Video:
Sleeping & Napping
Topic: Health & Safety
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