Sleeping FAQ: 24+ Months – Lunchtime Nap

My 29 month son does not sleep well by day which affects his night time sleep.

I have trouble getting my 29-month-old to settle down for his day nap; sometimes he does a poo after I put him down and treats it like a game because I have to go back and change his nappy. I feel he doesn’t have a restorative sleep and appears fretful and tired by 4pm. He takes ages to go to sleep so instead of putting him down at 7pm, I find myself getting him in bed by 6:15pm, and he still takes an hour to fall asleep. On days when he misses a nap, he goes into a deep sleep at 6:15 pm and wakes extremely early, but if I keep him up until 7pm, we still get the early wake-up, so that is why I try for an extra hour between 6 and 7pm. Is this wrong, or should I force him to go till 7pm in a hope that he will eventually sleep in later? My other problem is that he has a drenched nappy at 5am, even though I am limiting the water and milk at tea time. His sleep is precious at the moment and I’ve heard of lifting at 10:30pm, but I do not want to disrupt his sleep, as once he is awake he is fully awake!

My son sleeps in a blacked-out room in his bed in a grobag, and has 3 meals a day, but I have to stay away from juice, sweets etc as they change his behaviour.

It can be difficult to get an active child of this age to settle down for his lunchtime sleep. Give him plenty of exercise in the morning, including as much outside time as possible so he gets plenty of fresh air. Keep things as quiet as possible over lunchtime and perhaps introduce a 5 minute story before settling him for his nap so he is more relaxed and likely to drop off to sleep. Some toddlers of this age may be more ready to go down at 1pm as they are moving towards dropping the nap altogether. If you feel he could settle better at this later time then move towards it gradually. This may also help if he has a dirty nappy just after going down at 12.30pm. At his age it may be worth considering getting him to sit on a potty after lunch if you know that he often has a pooh at this time.

A slightly later lunch-time nap may help in the evenings as he would be less exhausted. At this age his daytime sleep needs will be beginning to decrease and he may only need an hour, but getting that hour at the right time of day will improve how he settles at night and also may help the early morning waking.

It is easy for a child of this age to become burnt out and exhausted. Make sure he has enough activities and play dates but beware that he also needs quiet times in his day. He may need help from you to have short rest periods throughout the day. Offer to read to him or help with a jigsaw if you feel he needs to take a break and recharge.

Having a very calm bath time and bedtime, not being rushed, even if you are aware that he is tired, will help him relax into sleep. Start to wind down after tea and keep his bath time short and peaceful. A very active child needs longer to calm down and also may need quiet but firm handling to do so. Once out of the bath don’t let him run around again. Lower the lights and close the curtains. Begin to settle him about 6.15/6.30pm if he seems tired but still keep to the same routine of enjoying a story or two and a chat about the day before leaving him to settle himself to sleep.