Managing Sleep Schedule

Updated on September 06, 2009
E.M. asks from Brick, NJ
7 answers

It seems I have been in an endless struggle to manage my daughter's sleep schedule. I just want her to be well rested and healthy. We're going through a really challenging time and I need some help. Here's the background: She stopped napping at age 2.5, despite months of efforts to keep her napping. After many battles, tears, bribes, charts, schedule changes, etc, I finally made peace with her not napping. She now takes an occasional nap, especially if she has had a busy day and we're driving in the afternoon. When she was a little younger the nap was fine, but as she has gotten older (she turned 3 in June), it started to be more of an issue - if she takes a nap she seems completely unable to fall asleep for the night until 10pm or even later. This sometimes starts a vicious cycle of her going to bed really late, waking up tired, taking a nap, and starting again with the late bedtime the next night. I also tried everything I could think of with the bedtime situation, sticker charts, rewards, and extra long and soothing routine, baths, massages, putting her back in her bed over and over and over . . . the thing is, if she does not take a nap she does not resist her bedtime, so it's hard to fault her when she just seems so awake and can't settle down. But now we are getting to the point where even if she does not take a nap, she catches this second wind at about 7pm and it's still hard to get her to sleep. She goes through a really sleepy and cranky period in the late afternoon, and I think she's utterly exhausted, but at 7:30 she is perky and wants to play. I could try putting her to bed earlier but I am usually nursing my son around 7pm (he's 12 months), and I put her to bed second. My husband can sometimes get her bedtime routine completed, but she usually wants to hold out for me to read to her and tuck her in. I feel like sometimes by then it is too late and she is wired. So in summary, every day is different. I have given up trying to make her nap, but there are some days when she falls asleep in the car. On those days she is usually up until 9 or 10pm. There are some days when she doesn't nap that she passes out cold at 6pm on the couch. Then there are days when she doesn't nap and can barely keep her eyes open at 5pm, but ends up going to bed at 9pm (which is way too late I feel). I feel like her schedule is chaotic and unhealthy but it seems like the more I try to regulate things the more futile it seems. Add into the equation my 1-year-old son who generally refuses to nap and you have a recipe for mental breakdown. He does sleep through the night but likes to wake up at 5am. Right now I can get one decent nap from him but he has to be exhausted and nursed to sleep. Even if the nap is at 9am, he will not take a second one. I have let him CIO numerous times and it did help his night sleep but he has been so stubborn with the naps. The last time I sleep trained him we went about a week of CIO at nap time and he still would not go down. Finally I gave up and started just nursing him to sleep again or not making him sleep at all. Clearly I am overwhelmed by all of this right now and this message is soooooooo long. But if anyone can help or at least sympathize, I would appreciate it. Thank you. (FYI I have read Weissbluth, Ferber, Pantley, Baby Whisperer, and Jodi Mindell books!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

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answers from New York on

Sounds like your daughter needs a much earlier bedtime! Try for 5:30 or 6 at the latest and see if that helps, then you can nurse your son afterwards. The second-wind thing is a common problem - they are overtired and the body produces adrenaline and then they do struggle to wind down.

The best advice I can offer is to start bedtime earlier, kids need sleep and their parents need some downtime also! As to your son's napping, just be patient and try starting a little earlier and being consistent - so hard to do but if they know to expect naptime it sometimes (!) starts to work.

I do empathise, my son did not nap for the first 16 months and it made me crazy at times.
Hang in there!

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answers from New York on

It is hard with 2 when they are this young! I have a 2yo and a 7mo... hoping it gets a bit easier sooner than later! Have you tried giving your daughter anything at bedtime to help her calm down, relax and get in the mindset... like putting lavender essential oil in a warm bath? Or I've heard warm milk at bedtime makes them sleepy (maybe a bit of honey will help her want to drink it if she doesn't like it plain). Or chamomile tea with honey also is calming. Another idea is massage her head, hands and feet while she is laying in bed with the lights very dim or even a candle she can blow out as the last thing before sleep. But all of these things should probably be done at the same time every day, and with time it may settle into routine. Even if she is awake like you say from a nap in the day, these are all sleep cues and aids which should get her to wind back down. And if after these she is still awake, let her lie in her bed with a flashlight and book? Hope it gets better for you! Hang in there!

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answers from New York on

I empathize and understand totally! My girl stopped napping at 18 months when I was pregnant!!! And she napped maybe a handful of times since then and she is now 3. I learned that if she naps she also has a late bedtime. Its because of her metabolism...basically she is a deep sleeper so if she naps she is not tired at bedtime bc her body and brain got enough rest!! So here's what I do: I keep her going all day. Morning school + lunch, afternoon errands or a playdate or park then she can play in her room or if very tuired, we'll watch a dvd together which we borrow from library then take bath, dinner and then bedtime by 730.
I also have a boy who is 1. He takes 2 naps and goes to bed 630 so I put him down first depends when his last nap was but I try to wind him down in his room with books and a lullaby cd for twenty min before his bedtime. Then I nurse him.

If she ever does nap (in car) I wake her within 20 minutes (pediatrician told me this)--not more than that. And if I have to put her in a tub for a bath then I will resport to that to wake her! It works. Warm water! Then maybe a park or movie depending on time of day.

Of course if dad gets home before 730 then she is up till 830 bc they play before bedtime. But that's okay.

Hope this helps!

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answers from Albany on

Hi There,
Sounds like your kids are over-tired. They need a consistant nap/rest schedule. My three and 1/2 year old daughter does not take naps any more, and stopped taking consistant naps well before her 3rd birthday... she will also take naps in the car if we are out in the late afternoon. It is reasonable that your daughter does not nap at this age, but then she needs plenty of rest at night and a decent "rest time". Every day at about 1pm (when my son naps) I read some stories to her and then let her watch a disney movie or sesame street for an hour. If your daughter is not one to watch tv, restrict her to her room with limited quiet toys for an hour or so every day... they need the down time. We implement the car ride nap fairly frequently ie. if we have somewhere to be in the evening, or if she seems really tired. However, we limit how long she sleeps (usually about 1 hour to 90min). Her bedtime with no nap is about 7:30... with a nap 8:00. You have to just be consitant and stick to a routine. Also, if she is getting wired later in the evening, she is overtired at that point. It sounds like 7pm (like you have said) would be a good starting point as a bedtime for her. Maybe nurse your son a little earlier in the evening, then do bedtime routine for both of your kids (ie. bath, quiet play, books) then bed for both of them. This is probably more efficient and better for your son because you are not nursing him to sleep (STOP this habit now... it will only make it harder for him to fall asleep on his own later). Just make a new routine that is efficient for you, and stick to it, your kids will ajust... just be CONSISTANT. Also, both of my kids wen to one nap at 1year old. It is a hard transition because they tend to get tired early, but then they won't take the afternoon nap. The key is to push them a little bit each day. If he seems tired at 9am, push him until 10... ie. go outside, give him a snack (a little sugar boost helped prolong my kids a bit). Then after a few days he will ajust to this nap time, then push him a little longer for a few days etc. until his one nap is midday (I usally put my son in after lunch... about 12:30 or 1:00 (he is 18mos). It is great when you get to the point that your daughter can have rest time while your son is napping! Good Luck and stay strong!

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answers from Jamestown on

My daughter turned 3 in June too and she takes a nap 2-3 a week. She sleeps in the car too..usually falls asleep three miles from our house and I can't get her back to sleep once we get home. It gets

With my new job, she has to get [email protected] does not take a nap at day care so I can get her to take one at home. Sometimes she doesn't fall asleep until 4pm then I have to get her up @6 for dinner. She goes back to sleep those nap days around 10pm. On days she doesn't take a nap, she sacks out between 8-9.

I guess what you need to ask yourself is, what time of day do you need "quiet time" and focus her schedule around that.

Good luck,

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answers from New York on

I have a 2 and 1/2 year old with the same problems not sure what to do either except you have to grab that window of tiredness when you can if u read to her read to her while your nursing you will be reading to both of them soon anyway to put them to bed together.
Good luck
From H.



answers from New York on

Please read what sleep expert Dr. Marc Weissbluth says:

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