Monday, May 30, 2011

Nix the Naps

I've made a big decision. I'm eliminating Samantha's afternoon nap.

She has been a great napper. I am the envy of many parents. Since I'm pregnant, being able to nap myself has been a life-saver. I never thought I would be the one to choose to eliminate such a blessing, but the time has come.

Sam's naps had been growing longer and longer, and she had been having more and more trouble falling asleep at night. I'm quite certain this is how some of us become "night people." Or maybe she just is a night person, and this is how it first manifests itself. Either way, the situation was becoming intolerable. We'd put her down later and later, but she'd still be up for hours, alternating between getting snacks, playing in the nursery (the room next to hers which is currently vacant), or screaming bloody murder. It was becoming common for her to be up until 10 or 11pm. It was obvious that she was simply not tired. One night I gave her Benadryl just to make her sleepy. (Didn't work.)

The problem is, Sam still seems to need more than the eleven hours of sleep she gets at night. Without her nap, she barely makes it to bedtime, and she falls asleep every time we're in the car. That is a sign of a child who needs more sleep, and I agree with Marc Weissbluth that sleep-deprivation is a serious problem. We can't put her to bed any earlier because Adam works late hours and we'd have to eliminate family dinner, which would be a last resort. But Sam is going to have to give up her nap in September anyway, when she begins full-day school, so we're going to have to find a way to get along without it.

So I'm going to allow her to go into her room and sleep any time she needs to, but I'm not going to read her a story or have any official nap time. (I wasn't sure how she'd take to this idea, but she's done it a couple of times now.) And depending on the time of day she sleeps, I'm going to wake her up after either a half-hour or an hour. No more three-hour marathon naps, no matter how pleasant and productive that me-time is.

I'm actually looking forward to getting rid of the naps. It was nice to have the time to myself, but it was also a huge hassle to be home every day from 1-4pm. It really killed the entire afternoon and evening for any kind of outing, because you can't drive anywhere in northern Virginia after 3:30. So for the past two years, I've done most of my errands and grocery shopping while Sam was in school because the few times I've taken Sam to the grocery store or to Target after her nap, it's been a living hell of traffic and mobs of people. So from 4 until bedtime, we usually just go places we can walk to, like the playground. In nice weather, it's not so bad, but it was particularly difficult in the winter. And I've really missed doing errands with my daughter. She and I have a lot of fun together doing simple things.

After school last week, on the very first day of the new no-nap policy, Sam and I went out to lunch and then directly to the grocery store. It was wonderful. I didn't feel that rush of needing to get home to keep the schedule, and when we did get home Sam was happy to play by herself quite a bit, so I ended up with some time to get my own work done anyway. (She tended to be very needy after her nap, so usually her awakening would mark the end of my "work" day.) I think I'll even be able to take catnaps myself with Sam awake in the house. She's mature enough to keep herself occupied, and I have supermom powers even while unconscious that seem to awaken me at the slightest sign of trouble.

School is out for summer in a week, and when Leo and Zoe arrive in September, who knows what will happen. But I think Sam's nap is a thing of the past. It was a good run.


  1. I don't know whether Sam's sleep habits mean she will be a night person. But I have always been a night person, and I know that for me, it was *impossible* to nap at her age. When I was 5 and 6, they used to make us lay down for two hours at day care and sleep, and I usually just spent those hours staring at the ceiling or something unless a counselor took pity on me and let me read one of the books on the shelves. They weren't very interesting books, but they were better then staring at the ceiling. I also had trouble falling asleep when put to bed; I don't remember what time that was (I think 8, but I'm not sure), but I do remember that it was at least an hour before 10pm which was usually when I actually fell asleep.

  2. Hi Amy,

    We went through quite an awful time with my youngest (Ashley), who was a great napper, but wouldn't go to sleep at night. This had to be when she was nearly 3. We eliminated the nap (a whole year or maybe 18 months earlier than her big sister), and it solved the night time sleeping immediately.

    The only real problem we've had since was she sleeps and wakes with the sun, so in the summer when she's exhausted from increased activity she doesn't get the sleep she needs insisting on getting up at 6AM and unable to fall asleep until the sun is completely gone from the sky, so close to 9. So that means dealing with an irritable child at times.

    Also if you can figure out how my oldest, Allison, won't sleep past 7 AM unless it's a school day when she would gladly sleep until 9, I'd be glad to know it.

    - Kevin