Napping Catch-22 Making Me Crazy!

Updated on February 15, 2010
A.C. asks from Sterling Heights, MI
24 answers

My 2 year old son was a terrible napper for his first year, and now he’s back at again. I am at my wit’s end and on the verge of needing a trip to the funny farm.

The problem: he clearly needs naps (cries, yawns, and is grumpy and clingy). However, it takes 30 – 60 min. to get him to sleep for his nap and sometimes he never falls asleep. If I lay him in his crib, he cries. He won’t do the “lie on a pallet and rest thing”. I am not one for letting him lie in his crib and cry, and even if I were, it doesn’t work. He doesn’t cry himself to sleep; he “cries himself awake.”

If he does NOT take a nap, he cries and clings in the late afternoon and it builds to him screaming and falling asleep at dinner time.

If he does take a nap and sleeps as long as he needs (1 ½ - 2 hours) then he won’t go to sleep at night. I tried to solve that by waking him after an hour, but then he clings to me and cries for 2 hours because he didn’t get enough sleep. I also tried giving him a nap earlier in the day, but he won’t fall asleep.

He typically falls asleep at night by 8:30 and wakes between 5:00 am and 7:00 am. When he wakes at 5:00 am, he is awake and ready for the day (will not go back to sleep), but I make him lie in my bed with me until 7:00 (and no, we don’t do co-sleeping other than that). I refuse to get up with him at 5:00 am. I give him a nap around 2:00 and make sure he is awake from the nap no later than 4:00.

If the narrative was too much, here are the highlights:

Takes an hour to fall asleep for nap if he falls asleep at all
Nap = no sleep at night
No nap = cry for hours and fall asleep at dinner
Short nap = cry for hours
Earlier nap = won’t fall asleep for nap at all

I seem to be in a no win situation!

All I can think of is to do the 1 ½ hour nap at 2:00 and then put him to bed at 9:30 p.m. instead of at 8:00. But that seems awfully late (it’s not like he’s an infant) and there is still the problem of it taking him an hour to fall asleep for his nap.

What do I do? Help, please!

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answers from Detroit on

Maybe the nap time at 2:00 is too late? About 12:30 has always been naptime for my kids. And, the earlier they get up, the earlier I put them for nap. up at 5am, nap at 11:00... up at 7am, nap at 12:30.... If they are overtired, it makes naptime/bedtime very difficult and they get up earlier the next day. Trying to put them down earlier at naptime and bedtime has always worked for me when they start to get in a difficult stage.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

My daughter is almost 2 and I am havin the same problem with her... She is cuttin her back molars, however its a battle to put her to sleep. I want to cry when its nap time or bedtime, I dont know what to do either.... I feel you I want to go to the funny farm just for a break. Goodluck to you. Cris



answers from Detroit on

I would put him to bed at 7:30 or 8, my 2 1/2 year old is in bed by 7:45 most nights and slees till 6:30-7 am. thats what works for us. I was always very leary about putting her to bed so ealry sometimes even 7 :15, but it has worked great, especially since it is dark, but once daylight savings comes it is always a struggle for a few weeks to get used to the new schedule.

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answers from Kansas City on

i don't really know if i can tell you what to do - each child is different and your child may really not need as much sleep as others. plus like you said he's not a good sleeper so it's not as easy as just messing with his schedule until something works. sounds like any changes you make will take awhile for him to adjust to. but i will give you my son's sleep schedule, and he has always been a great sleeper so take from it what you can:

up at 6:15 or 6:30 am (due to my work and his daycare)
nap 12:30 till about 2 or 2:30 (beginning right after lunch)
bed at 7:30 or 8

another thing i thought of was possibly putting a quiet movie or tv show on for "quiet time". then there's no pressure to sleep, but he's in his crib having some down time. take the struggle out of it, don't try to force him to sleep (which just stresses you both out) but put him down for quiet time at the same time each day and let him sleep or not as he sees fit. but the clinging and crying is just another form of acting out/tantrums, so if it was me i would be timing out or placing in his room for some "safe time" when that happens. some of it might be behavioral too. good luck, i hope it gets better!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Earlier bedtime and earlier nap. Nap after lunch. Bath at about 6:30 or 7:00 and bed by 7:30. Sleep begets sleep. I would not move his bedtime LATER, he wont sleep as well. Sounds like he is not getting enough total sleep and I think an earlier bedtime routine just might lead to a solid 12 hr nighttime sleep. An after lunch nap for about 1-1.5 hours won't interfere.
Have you tried putting on some story or song CDs during naptime? Give him a pile of sturdy books to look at in his crib and/or a few small soft animals or toys?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Wow do I feel your pain. I am sorry you sound like you're at your wits end.

My suggestion, try to do "quiet time" RIGHT after in, don't let his feet hit the floor. That was some of the best advice I ever got when my toddler went through this too.

It doesn't have to be black and white. Does he HAVE to go in his crib? Or can you put a pedal gate on his door and let him play quietly in his room? Maybe you could read him a few stories, then say, "now it's your turn to have some quiet time". Start with 5 mins. Then check on him and praise him. Maybe you can put a mattress on the floor in his room with some COOL big boy sheets and tell him it's his "tent" to camp on. MAKE IT FUN, not a punishment or he MUST do. Make sure you stay quiet too. Like it's a house rule - quiet time after lunch.

I hope this helps you. With any luck he'll fall asleep on his new tent bed on the floor.



answers from Detroit on

have you done a log of his sleep?/ write down his wake up and sleep times for a week or so...

My son has some similar behaviors.. he often wakes up at 5 am.. too darn early but he is ready to meet the world.

He does need the nap... he may not want it but he needs it.. I think he is probably overtired by the time he goes down for a sons naptime is 1230-1.. if he wakes up at6-7 am.. if he gets up at 5 am naptime is 12 nnon.

bedtime is 730...

get the book --healthy sleep habits happy child.

great book great advice..

your son could be teething and that could be waking himup..



answers from Orlando on

His nap should start right after lunch-- like 12:30-1:00ish. If he is rubbing his eyes and yawning, he is already OVER tired and that's why he has a hard time falling asleep



answers from Austin on

Hmm. It seems like his nap is pretty late in the day. He is probably over tired if he wakes at 5. Can you put him down earlier? Like at 12-12:30? And an earlier bedtime is always better, IMHO.



answers from Detroit on

I know this will seem counterintuitive, but put him to bed earlier not later. I read the book, Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child with my son (who was a horrible sleeper/napper through many phases). It didn't make sense to me until I had my daughter. I started with the books suggestions, and my daughter is an AWESOME sleeper. I have also adopted his suggestions with my son. We went through the exact same scenario when he was 2 -21/2. The absolute best solution was to give him "quiet time" in his room for 30 minutes (which was not an easy sell). This way if he needed a nap, he would get bored and eventually fall asleep. Then we would resume with the 8:30 bedtime. If he did not nap, he at least had some down time so his mood would improve. BUT, on those nights it was imperative that bedtime was at 6 or 6:30. I swear to you he slept longer on the nights that he went to bed earlier (slept until like 9 am most mornings). It was amazing. Eventually we got away from quiet time. Now he is 3 1/2, and we are in a good schedule. He goes to bed around 7 or 7:30...sleeps until 7:30 or 8 (sometimes longer). The best part is on the weekend when we would like to keep him out longer, he adapts pretty well. My daughter started with early bedtimes right away. She sleeps 14 hours a night, with one 2 hour nap in the afternoon. Check out the book (it's in the library)...and try the early bedtime for one week. I promise you it will be the best thing ever. My hubby and I have our nights back!!! Good luck!!



answers from Detroit on

I strongly believe that every child has a "Window of Opportunity" when it comes to falling asleep. If you start putting them to sleep before or after that small window, there will be struggle, but within the window, it's usually easy and quick. I learned this by accident years ago when my oldest two were young. My husband was out of town, and I'd had a horrible day. The girls slept terribly the night before, were up at the crack of dawn that day, were grumpy, cranky and days like this were getting more and more frequent. Finally at suppertime (around 5), I had HAD it. I decided that I was going to bathe them immediately after supper and put them to bed. I was sure they'd just cry for hours, but I needed the day to end! That night, our bedtime routine (bath, teeth, book, prayers & song) was over at 6:15!! I turned on the music in their room and went out, waiting for the misery of the night to begin. But it didn't. They were both SOUND asleep when i checked on them at 6:30! The next day, my "angels" were back! They woke up at 7:00, and it was a fabulous day. Naps went well, they were happy and well rested. I tried the same thing that night to see if it was just coincidence, but once again, they fell asleep right away. Since then, I've had 2 more children, and all of them have had a 6:30 bedtime (sometimes stretching to 7 out of necessity) until they've been about in first grade. My 3rd is in 1st grade and still needs it. My 4th is four and *definitely* needs it. They all wake up at 7:00- 7:30. I'm always amazed at how being overtired affects everything about them. My older children now go to bed around 8. Such an early bedtime has been a sacrifice in our home, but the rewards have been AMAZING, far outweighing anything we might have missed out on. Since that first night, I've done a lot of research on sleep. One thing I'll suggest is to ensure you put him to bed *before* he shows signs of sleepiness - that's showing you he's already OVERtired. His nap, also, seems very late. Perhaps moving everything forward will also give you much needed 'adult time'. That has been the number one thing that has helped me to be a better mother - to have time to myself every night! I hope for the best for you!



answers from Detroit on

It is just my opinion, but 2:00pm seems a bit to late in the day to put him down for a nap. Have you tried to put him down for a nap at 12:30pm or 1:00pm? Even if he doesn't seem tired, he should be since he was up since 5:00AM. By 2:00pm, he might be overtired and that is why he is not falling asleep easily. If he doesn't nap, then you should move his bedtime to 7:30pm. This might help. However, all kids are different, but you need to get your rest too, so don't give up. Also, maybe you can ask your pediatrician for ideas as well. Good luck.



answers from Houston on

I know this is not the answer you want but does your son sleep in the stroller or on a car ride? My 2 year falls asleep every day at 12:00 either in his stroller or in the car. If he falls asleep in the stroller, I push the stroller into the house and let him finish his nap. If he falls asleep in the car I carry him in and put him down on a blanket on the floor to let him finish his nap. This was not a routine that I started on purpose but it happened out of necessity due to my older children's schedules. We never seemed to be at home for nap time so this is where we are now. We've been following this routine for so long that it's normal and the good news is he falls asleep peacefully every day. He's then up by 3:00 (either on his own or I have to wake him to pick up the older kids at school) and then he's in bed for the night at 8:00. He does go to his bed at night without any problem. This might be a way to get him to take his naps earlier in the day without the drama.

Good luck,



answers from Detroit on

I just went through something similar with my 2 year old daughter. At this age, everything to a 2YO is play play play. They don't understand they need a nap and they can do a good job of staying awake. I had to do several things and go through a few difficult days to get my daughter to get the picture that naptime is for sleeping.
Morning play- I tried to make mornings fun and active. Dancing, running, playing outside and keeping busy. It helped her become tired and also gives her attention and activity that she will not receive during naptime.
Consistency - I put her down at the same time every day at about 12:30.
Explaination- When I put her down, I explained to her that she had to take a nap. It is not play time, it is sleep time.
Enforcement- I would allow her to talk to herself, but I wouldn't allow her to get up and jump or get out of bed (she's in a toddler bed). When she would, I would go in the room lay her back down and strictly tell her it was nap time, and she has to lay down and go to sleep. Then I would leave the room. Repeat as necessary, but don't get angry- it is the consistency and repetition that teaches your child.
I also put her to bed at the same time every night and if she didn't nap or nap well during the day, that does not mean that she gets to go to bed earlier. If she was falling asleep, I would probably give her a bath to keep her awake until the designated bedtime.
It is a phase, and your job is to teach your son to sleep even when it is more fun to stay awake.

My daughter is two. She goes to bed at 7:30, wakes up at 6:30am and takes a 2.5 hour nap everyday in her toddler bed.



answers from Kansas City on

I would put him to bed @ 9:30, that's not too late.



answers from Detroit on

Rule out anything medical first - ear infection, cutting molars, etc. Second, are there major changes or stresses going on in your house? (new job, sibling, daycare, etc)
If no, then my best guess? He's probably overtired. 5 AM - 2 PM is a long time for a 2 year old to be awake. (my 2 year old would probably act similarly if he was awake that long!)

I would try bumping back his naptime by 15 minutes each day.
Day 1 = 1:45 PM, Day 2 = 1:30 PM, etc. Then, bump his bed time back by the same amount of time.

Also, if it were me, I'd let him cry it out a bit in the short blocks of time, but adding more on each day, similar to above. That way, his body will be "trained" to sleep a little later, and ultimately feel more rested.

You could also consult a sleep book for toddlers.

Whatever you choose to do, stick it out - your best "weapon" will be consistancy.

Sleep is the ever-present battle, isn't it?! Grrr....I hope you find a happy solution, and quickly!



answers from Detroit on

Hi, I would recommend going to your local library and getting a book. The ferber method is a good one. I read one when mine were infants called something like healthy sleep, happy baby. I followed the book with all 3 of my kids and they are awesome sleepers to this day. Good luck. D.



answers from Dallas on

Sure was hoping someone had a miracle answer for you... wanted to let you know you aren't alone. My 2 year old is doing the same thing, unfortunatly I also have a 3 week old and i am TIRED! I think her napping days are just about over... sigh.


answers from Grand Rapids on

Hi A. :)
I'm wondering if perhaps you should put him down for a nap earlier than you are? Maybe by 2pm he's already over-tired and therefore can't fall asleep? I would do lunch around noon then after lunch, give half an hour or so to play, read a story, and nap at 1pm. Let him sleep no later than 3pm so that come bedtime, he's sleepy again. Just a thought... sounds like anything is worth trying at this point - good luck and hope this helps!

K. :)



answers from Kalamazoo on

There is no magic answer here. He needs to be on a schedule, and trained to nap and sleep. It won't happen immediately, but you have to decide on a schedule that works for your family needs and stick with it.

My daughter didn't always nap, but she was in her crib during nap time. Often playing with toys for an hour or so until she fell asleep. She cried a lot at first, but we didn't budge and she eventually figured out that she could sleep or play and it was more fun then crying. She is 3 now and still takes a 2-4 hour nap a day. This does not affect her sleeping, and if she wakes up at night, she is taken right back to bed. I worried about how naps would go when she was in a twin bed, but she was not one to escape, and its been about a year before she has started to even get up on her own in the morning (usually she plays in bed until we get her, or calls for us if she needs to use the potty). However, if she'd been an escape artist, we would have just had to train her to stay in bed. Taking her back over and over and over so she learned.

This is an area of obedience training. Your son needs his sleep and kids thrive on a schedule, but don't necessarily WANT a schedule. It takes a while to train them to it, but once you do you'll never go back. :) When my daughter was 2 we would get her up around 7am (even if she was awake earlier), have breakfast and play. Sometime between 10 and 11am we put her down for her nap. She'd play for 30-60 minuets in her crib/bed and then nap for 2+ hours. She got up and played the rest of the afternoon and was back in bed at 8pm. It was a loose schedule, but she knew what to expect.

Good luck, it isn't easy to do this, and just expect lots of resistance in the beginning, but patience and consistency will be the key to a happy kiddo!



answers from San Diego on

I can't remember what the exact schedule was, but I think one of the sleep books recommended that a child your son's age be awake for no more than 4-6 hours before his first nap. So if he wakes up at 5 AM, he should nap no later than 11 AM. That way, if he sleeps for a couple of hours, it's only 1 PM, and there is still plenty of time for him to tire himself out before bed. And then, bedtime no later than 6 hours after he wakes from his nap. So in this case, he would be up at 5 AM, nap from 11 AM - 1 PM, bedtime at 7 PM. Then he would get a solid 12 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.

My son has always been a horrible napper. Before he gave up naps altogether, we tried a few things that helped us. One would be to let him nap on our bed. I'd lay down with him until he fell asleep. Another thing would be to give him a treat if he napped (either a sticker or a cup of juice). Now that he no longer naps (he's 3), our rule of thumb is that he needs to be in bed roughly 12 hours after he wakes up. So if he wakes up at 7:30 AM, he's generally in bed around 7:30 PM (well, 8 PM, if I'm being honest).

Good luck!


answers from Austin on

I think he is waking up early cause he goes to bed late..

He should in bed asleep by 7:30pm..

That will hopefully move his awakening to 6:00am..
Then play him hard mid morning (running, jumping climbing, peddling) then a really nice warn lunch and then nap at 12 or 12:30..

up no later than 2:30.. again really active play around 4:00.... NO TV.... A quiet dinner at 6:00, a very quiet and darkened bath time with lots of slow hard rubs..

Then into the bed at 7:00. quiet story time, this is not the time to engage him in conversation.. He should be asleep by 7:30.. Get a sound machine or quiet music. Put up black out curtains...

New schedules are easiest to implement on Fridays.. it gives the family the weekend to transition...



answers from Detroit on

My girls went through this at 2 as well. They essentially were done napping then. It was difficult through that transition, but it only lasted a few months. In the meantime, lay him down in his crib with some books. Tell him it is quiet time. If he truly needs the nap, he will fall asleep. If not, he has a rest and you get the break without a power struggle. If he understands, set a timer and tell him he has to stay in his crib until he hears it. This really worked well for my more stubborn ones!
Hope that helps!



answers from Seattle on

I would try to go without a nap and put him to bed earlier (7:00PM). It may take a few days for his schedule to adjust - funny enough he may also sleep later.
My daughter has just started dropping some naps and that's what works for us on no nap days.

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