3 Year Old Refuses to Nap. Why It Happens & What You Need To Know.

There was once a time when your child wouldn’t stop napping, but now it seems like they have forgotten how to take a nap altogether. Do not frustrate over your child’s varying attitude, it’s completely normal, and whether you like it or not good things have to end. I went through the same experience with my babies and learned it the hard way that their needs and behaviors are changing, and all I have to do is help them transition into this new change. Today, I will share some of my experiences that helped me a lot in dealing with the changing toddler’s sleeping routine, in hopes that you find them helpful as well.

Researchers have told us that naps help babies have a better mood, better learning capability, and reduced risk of injury. So, napping is critical for their growing minds, and bodies, but these naps will vary with age and needs. Your baby is likely to experience drastic changes in their sleep patterns as they grow up. During the first year, your baby’s nap times will transition from 5-6 times a day to only 2 times, and this might even reduce to 1 as they approach 18-20 months. Napping transitions vary with each child, while some stop napping altogether around the age of 2-3 years, others might take up to 5 years. As children grow up they stay awake for more hours than they used to, which is an indication that their napping habits are changing. Toddlers might spend days without naps and suddenly want to nap for the next few days. Which is completely fine as they are adjusting to their new routine. Also, as toddlers grow they find it hard to nap, this is where you have to play your part and help them get the quality sleep they need. One of the main signs that your child will show that they are ready to skip their afternoon naps is that they won’t feel cranky, exhausted, or tired, and will go to bed at their normal times. This is when you will know that this would be the new no-nap normal!

Why is my 3-year-old resisting nap?

There can be a number of reasons to why your toddler is giving you a hard time before napping. As babies grow up they tend to stay awake for longer hours than they used to. Which means they might need just 2 naps in a day instead of 3. This will also affect their bedtime because they do not feel sleepy anymore at that time. For instance, you might put them down for a nap, but they will take an hour to sleep and then wake up even late. This irregular sleep pattern will affect their bedtime sleep as well.

You will also find that toddlers who are having normal nap times will still resist going to bed at night because they have taken too many naps in the afternoon and now they do not feel like going to bed this early.

Some days your baby will completely skip her nap, but wouldn`t show any signs of frustration, exhaustion, or lack of sleep. This means that their sleeping needs are changing, which is a good sign and doesn`t need you to worry at all.

Image: The New York Times

What is the right age for kids to stop napping?

Naps are as important for toddlers as eating, because of their positive impacts on a child’s growth and development. This will be until a certain age which varies with each child. About 50% of the toddlers still nap at the age of 4 and 70% stop napping at the age of 5.

A child who doesn’t want to nap is not the same as the child who doesn’t need a nap. Make sure that your child is hitting his sleeping hours which are normally 12 to 14 hours for a toddler. If your child is skipping a nap they will start to show signs like resistance, frustration, and eye rubbing.

When you notice these signs, but still find them resisting a nap, help them calm their nerves down and give in, by playing soft music or closing the curtains.

How to help your toddler stop napping

For some babies, this transition will be quick, but for others, it will be gradual. For instance, your kid might need naps on alternate days, which is normal because they are transitioning from naps to no naps. On the other hand, some kids might skip naps straight for a week, but nap the sixth day.

To be able to understand when your child needs a nap, start picking up the hints like if your baby doesn’t seem tired or sleepy at nap time, instead of putting them to bed make them play alone for an hour with their toys. This way if your baby feels sleepy it will be easier for her as it`s all calm and quiet around them.

The early days of nap transition will require some adjustments on your part as well because babies tend to have a consistent sleep time. For 2-year-old toddlers, the average sleep time is between 12-14 hours and for 3 years old is 11-13 hours. This means that if your baby is not taking afternoon naps anymore, then they will need to sleep earlier than before so that their sleep requirements are fulfilled.

How to get your tired 3 year old to sleep

How to get your tired toddler to sleep

Babies tend to get tired easily because of all the information they have to process the new world. Sleep helps them remember this new information for the longer run. Babies tend to have different awake times while growing up:

AgeAwake time
Newborn45 minutes
6 month old2 hours
Toddler4-5 hours
Toddler`s awake time respective to age

When babies stay awake past their awake time their bodies start to release stress hormones which make babies fight sleep or have a hard time sleeping.

Signs of over tiredness

An overtired toddler refusing to nap

Knowing the signs of tiredness is as important as figuring out how to make them fall asleep because your baby might be giving you cues, but due to lack of knowledge, you fail to pick them. Let’s learn these cues:

  • Babies start to resist as they get overtired
  • Some babies start to suck their thumb to soothe themselves
  • Toddlers start showing autonomic signals like sneezing, hiccups, rapid breathing, and sweating.
  • In extreme cases, toddlers start to show a hyperactive behavior, Fighting, running away, or resistant attitude.

These extreme behaviors are signs of Flight, Fright, and Fight- which is a response to stress hormones. Now making these hyperactive toddlers fall asleep is going to be a tough job but here are a few suggestions that can help you accomplish your task without much hassle:

  • Put all the things that are stimulating them, away
  • Spend some alone time with your toddler to calm down their nerves
  • Read them a story or let them feed on your lap
  • Rock her crib until she starts feeling lethargic
  • In case your toddler is restless, sit with her, or sing to her until she falls asleep.

Read more on what you can do when toddler refuses to nap?

Tips for stress-free nap routine for children

  • Plan for day-to-day activities. Plan stimulating activities after nap time and quieter activities before nap time. Most of the children tend to fall asleep naturally after a bath.
  • Make the naptime appealing to kids by signing to them or reading them their favorite story.
  • Do not be restrictive about nap times. Allow your children`s nap time to differ from yours, be flexible. If your child does not feel sleepy or show signs of sleepiness or tiredness then let them stay awake. Your purpose is to help them sleep when they are tired not to force them.
  • For toddlers, parents should discuss the timing with caregivers, and also the number of naps. The caregiver should keep the parents updated with their changing sleep routines to prepare the parents for the coming change.
  • Children tend to resist naps more than often. In these situations, refer to a gentle tone instead of threatening tone or actions.
  • Use comforters, blankets, and pacifiers while helping the toddler fall asleep. This helps them feel calmer, safer, and warmer hence; leads to a peaceful transition to sleep.
Was this article helpful?

Hajira is a certified editor, an experienced and thoughtful writer, and a mother of two. Her deliberate passion for writing convinced her to become a writer along with her mom duties. Driven by her passion for writing, she takes pride in providing the best possible. She aims to incite and provoke enthusiasm in her readers.

Leave a Comment