Nap Time Schedule

August 26, 2019

 

 

When we sleep, the time of day that we sleep is very important. Sleeping at the same time every day and at an appropriate time of day helps to regulate our circadian rhythm. This is very important for children and naps. Sleeping at the appropriate time allows a child to optimize all of the benefits of sleeping. Especially during the time of life when they are growing, developing, and learning so much. Sleep contributes to a child's ability to retain and recall information, to speak, to regulate emotions, to build confidence, etc. So, below I have provided you with typical schedules for each age range.

 

Some children might have earlier or later schedules than the ones provided below. However, children typically don't fall too far from the schedules provided, if at all. Helping your child to create an appropriate schedule for his age can help improve his overall sleep.

 

To make sure we are on the same page, let's discuss a couple terms often used. One, routine. When I refer to a routine, I am referring to a pattern. Two, schedule. When I refer to a schedule, I am referring to a routine based on the time of day.

 

Now, let's dive in! Below are the different routines and schedules based on specific age ranges.

 

NEWBORNS

 

Ummmmm, Ha. What schedule? At this age, we focus on routines.

 

Your newborn will/does not follow a "schedule" as his circadian rhythm has not yet developed. Expect sleep to be a little bit all over the place.

 

However, at this time, focus on helping your child to sleep and to not become overtired. It is important to pay attention to your baby's wake window - the duration of time that your baby can handle being awake.

 

Until about six weeks of adjusted age, the wake window is only about forty-five minutes. Around six weeks it begins to slowly progress to about one hour and thirty minutes.

 

It is also good to note that around six to eight weeks of age, your newborn will start to pick up on patterns, will benefit from an earlier bedtime, and will begin to experience about four to six hours of consecutive sleep for the first portion of night sleep.

 

FOUR TO SIX MONTHS

 

Around sixteen weeks of adjusted age, the circadian rhythm starts to become a little bit more mature. Gradually, your baby will become more reliable on a schedule rather than just a routine of wake windows. You will need to be flexible during this age as you will help your child to get onto a schedule while also paying attention to wake windows. Here is an example schedule of what your child will be working towards biologically:

 

Wake Time: 6:30/7AM

 

AM Nap: 8:30/9AM

 

PM Nap: 12/1PM

 

One or Two Catnaps

 

Bedtime: 6/7PM

 

SIX TO NINE MONTHS

 

Around six months, if not already, your baby will rely on a schedule that fits with his biological clock. Typically, a schedule at this age is very similar to the one above. However, it is at this time that you can expect naps to lengthen with catnaps dropping from one or two to zero or one with the catnap disappearing, at the latest, by nine months.

 

Wake Time: 6:30/7AM

 

AM Nap: 8:30/9AM

 

PM Nap: 12/1PM

 

Zero or One Catnap

 

Bedtime: 6/7PM

 

NINE MONTHS TO FIFTEEN MONTHS

 

At this time, your baby should no longer need a catnap. If your child does have a catnap at this age, you will probably notice him either taking short naps, having a difficult time falling asleep at bedtime, or going to bed later than the suggested time. If this is the case, it is a good idea to remove that catnap and move bedtime up to an earlier time.

 

Wake Time: 6:30/7AM

 

AM Nap: 8:30/9AM

 

PM Nap: 12/1PM

 

Bedtime: 6/7PM

 

FIFTEEN MONTHS TO TWO 1/2 YEAR OLD

 

Around fifteen to eighteen months of age, you can expect your toddler to drop that AM Nap. However, be cautious of dropping this nap too early. Often parents believe their child is ready sooner than fifteen months due to issues with nap times that are actually due to an overtired child or a child hitting a milestone that is known to cause sleep issues. 

 

Instead of dropping the AM Nap right away when you think your baby is moving on from it, first, give it a week to make sure the change is consistent. Second, make minor adjustments before completely getting rid of it. For example, shorten the AM Nap to somewhere between forty-five minutes and an hour and a half and/or move the PM Nap closer to 1PM if not already.

 

Note that when your child does drop that AM Nap, it does not mean your child needs less sleep. Instead, that sleep will be consolidated into the PM Nap and/or Bedtime. This is often a phase when parents struggle with an overtired child who won't sleep well, and it is often because this is not taken into consideration. With dropping the AM Nap, you will need to move the PM Nap and/or Bedtime up to an earlier time.

 

Once your toddler is truly ready to drop that AM Nap, you can then expect the schedule below.

 

Wake Time: 6:30/7AM

 

PM Nap: 12/1PM

 

Bedtime: 6/7PM

 

TWO 1/2 YEAR OLD TO THREE YEAR OLD

 

This is another time when parents often jump the gun and decide to get rid of a nap earlier than their child is ready for. Just like I mentioned with the AM Nap, make sure it is consistent and consider making some minor adjustments to the PM Nap instead of completely dropping it. For example, shorten the PM nap to one or one and a half hours and/or push Bedtime a little bit later.

 

Wake Time: 6:30/7AM

 

PM Nap: 12/1PM

 

Bedtime: 7/8PM

 

THREE YEAR OLD TO FOUR YEAR OLD

 

Somewhere between three and four years old, a child will usually drop naps all together. When this happens, I HIGHLY SUGGEST that you continue to have an hour of quiet time for your child in his room. Regardless if he is sleeping or not, it provides some down time for him to calm and refresh.

 

When going from one nap to no naps, expect that your child will probably need a nap every other day or so while making this adjustment. While going through this phase, be sure to also adjust bedtime. If your child doesn't nap, an earlier bedtime is recommended. If your child ends up napping during quiet time, wake him after an hour as not to cause any bedtime struggles and expect bedtime to be a little bit later.

 

During Quiet Time, set parameters and express those to your child so that he knows what is expected of him. Here are some examples that I suggest you consider:

 

No screens during Quiet Time as this does not allow the mind to relax.

 

Does he need to be silent during quiet time or is he allowed to talk softly?

 

Does he need to stay in his bed or can he roam his room (if safe)?

 

Is he allowed to have toys or books in his bed and is there a limit to how many? 

 

Here is a typical schedule for a child of this age.

 

Wake Time: 6:30/7AM

 

Quiet Time: 1PM

 

Bedtime: 7/8PM

 

I hope you have found this post helpful! Figuring out the best time for your child to nap will help him to get the most restorative sleep possible along with making sure that he has all components for a strong sleep foundation in place. With that said, if your child is going down for sleep with the proper schedule but still struggles with sleep, he might be missing another major component. Make sure that all of the puzzle pieces are in place.

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