How Long Should Toddlers Nap? A Guide to Bedtime and Naptime
I saw a quote on Snooze Shade’s Facebook page that made me both laugh and cringe:
“How come no one talks about the toddler phase where they don’t need a nap anymore, but they actually still do, but if they take a nap they won’t be in bed until 10pm. And if they don’t take a nap they will fall asleep in the car at 4:45, nap for 15 minutes, and still not fall asleep until 10pm. And if they manage to make it through the day without falling asleep anywhere, they are completely freaking out and emotional by 5:30.”
Has anyone else experienced this? I have! This prompted a deep dive into researching sleep recommendations and toddler naps.
Here’s what I found out:
Hold on to your child’s nap for as long as you can! Every kid is different, but my daughter (who is almost three) definitely still needs her afternoon nap. Hallelujah!
As a mom who works from home, I count on her nap time to get some work done while enjoying a hot cup of coffee or tea. This is also when I get some quiet time to snuggle with my baby, Laney. (Her naps are also very important, but that’s a topic for another time.)
It isn’t just my sanity and productivity that motivates me to help my toddler take good naps, it’s also crucial for her healthy development.
Grow, by WebMD, states that “As kids grow and develop, naps give their bodies and minds time to rest and recharge during those big changes. Plus, if children get overtired, it’s actually harder for them to fall asleep easily at nighttime.” (If that doesn’t motivate you to keep your toddler’s afternoon nap, I don’t know what will!)
According to further research, naps are also important to toddlers because:
This makes so much sense to me. Think about what your day is like when you’re well rested versus exhausted. When I’m well rested, I’m more productive at work, more friendly to everyone, and more likely to exercise. I’m also more likely to take time to cook healthy meals at home. If I'm tired and grumpy, I’m more likely to be lazy, turn on the TV, and get French fries and chicken nuggets for dinner.
So, how much sleep does a toddler need? The National Sleep Foundation recommends that toddlers ages 1-2 need about 11-14 hours of sleep a day. Preschool-aged children who are 3-5 years old should get around 10-13 total hours of sleep. You should also note that “lack of sufficient sleep at a young age has been correlated with problems with weight, mental health, behavior, and cognitive performance” (Suni, 2022).
Here are additional signs that your toddler is not ready to skip their nap:
- They are extra cranky and non compliant when they skip their nap
- They fall asleep at odd times and in odd places
- They are more lethargic
- They crave more junk food
If your toddler has frequent meltdowns, only wants to eat goldfish, constantly wants to be held, and is more interested in watching TV than playing, this could also be a sign that they aren’t getting enough sleep. Calculate how much sleep your little one regularly gets and think about making some adjustments.
Every child is different, but generally speaking, most toddlers are ready to skip their nap sometime between ages 3-5. Based on my experience, closer to age 5 is preferable.
If your afternoon nap is beginning to interfere with your bedtime routine, try shortening their nap gradually instead of skipping it altogether. How long should toddlers nap to reap the benefits of great sleep? Even a 30 minute snooze is so beneficial. I’m a believer that everyone, adults included, would benefit greatly from a daily nap! And there is a lot of research that supports this.
My advice is to follow your child’s lead. Their behavior will tell you what they need more clearly than their words. For example, this morning Darcy just wanted to snuggle and have her binky. Usually she wants to play play play. She woke up early and had a busy weekend, so I will let her nap for as long as she wants (rarely do I wake her up) and help her fall asleep early tonight.
Toddlers are very busy learning and growing; they need as much patience, consistency, healthy food, and SLEEP as we can give them. I tell Darcy that her brain is growing SO BIG when she naps.
I will continue to cherish nap time because my little girl is the happiest and healthiest version of herself when she is well rested. (Aren’t we all?) For my family, this means scheduling our plans around nap time, following a routine, and being in tune to the ever evolving needs of my kids.
günamüna is here to provide you with the support, research, and snuggly gear to help your little one take great afternoon naps. Check out our new Spring collection of pajamas and sleep bags to keep your toddler comfortable and cozy all season long.
Love, Emily and the günamüna team