Expert Advice: Dropping the Nap

No Nap Transition

To wrap up the nap transition series, I’ve come to my least favorite of the nap transitions…the one where your child gives up their nap altogether. It kills me to write this post as this is what I’m going through right now with my preschooler. On the one hand, I’m extremely lucky I’ve gotten 3.5 consistent nap years out of him. On the other hand, when am I ever going to have time to write these posts again!

A child usually does not drop their nap overnight. There are of course exceptions to every rule but generally, this is a slow process that normally begins a little after the age of 2. Initially they do not “drop” the nap, but your child will start pushing bedtime later and later. If you are a parent who does not want to be watching Law and Order sitting next to your toddler, you’ll need to cut the nap length to preserve a reasonable bedtime. This time varies from child to child so some kids can nap 2 hours and be asleep by 7 pm. Others cannot do longer than 30 minutes. They will most likely be grouchy when awoken from their midday snooze. I like to try capping at sleep cycle lengths (so about 45 minutes, or 90 minutes) but if that doesn’t work, be prepared for an unhappy monster when they wake.

My son was able to continue on a capped nap for almost 1.5 years (although bedtime did increase within that time frame but not drastically). However, recently he’s refusing the nap altogether. It goes something like this: Day One- he’s fine without a nap and can make it almost until his normal bedtime, Day Two-Epic Meltdown, Day 3-back to napping. Some kids wake up one day and just decide to never nap again, but many will go days without napping and then pick back up for a bit.

So how do you get through it without losing your mind?

I implement quiet time for one hour. I still advise my clients to put their children in at normal nap-time. You tell them they can read quietly or play with some toys in their room. If they fall asleep great! If not, it means an earlier bedtime. Not every child will do well with quiet time in their room. If you have a child who kicks and screams and fights if you put them in their room for an hour, it might be easier on you to have them sit next to you “reading” a book or perhaps putting on a movie.. They just need something that can rest their brain for a little so that they can recharge. Think of it as their midday cup of coffee. If they refuse to sleep during that quiet time, the early bedtime will be your savior. While a preschooler that still naps may need only 9-10 hours of sleep at night, one without a nap should be closer to 12 hours at night. So that means it may not be unreasonable to put them to sleep at 6 pm if they didn’t nap. If they are up until 11 pm even with only a half hour of nap-time, it might be time to bite the bullet and cut out the nap altogether.

The no nap transition isn’t the toughest one to tackle but it may be the hardest on you. It’s very difficult for me as a mom to say goodbye to my “me” time some days. However, I know many a parent who embraces the fact that now they don’t have to be home at a set time and can go out for all day events. In the meantime, while I go through this with my own child, I’ll keep pushing “quiet time” and maybe crack open a bottle of wine after his 6 pm bedtime.


Nicole Cannon, The Sleepy Mama, is a certified sleep consultant through the International Maternity Institute. Although she had previously done sleep work with families she nannied for, it wasn't until Nicole had her first child in 2013 that she was able to experience how difficult sleep deprivation can be on both children and parents. Now a mom of two, Nicole uses a variety of sleep techniques and methods with families to help everyone get more rest.

For more information about Nicole, or to schedule a consultation, visit her website:

The Sleepy Mama

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