Recently I’ve had several clients contact me for help with their infants, but in the course of our consult we’ve touched on their older child’s sleep issues. The older child is often around 3 years of age, and has either stopped napping, or naps infrequently. And it’s obvious this kiddo still needs a nap. I then give them some suggestions to follow to help their toddler get back to napping daily. Next I hear about how wonderful it is that their child is napping again…but now they won’t go to bed at night! There is a happy medium! Read on to learn my advice for when (and how) to wake a toddler from a nap. Because being smart about their nap time usually translates to preserving their nighttime sleep.

when to wake a toddler from a nap

Photo Credit: Dominika Roseclay

Limit the Length of Their Nap

If you’re reading this, you are probably in the same boat as my recent clients! A boat I also found myself in with my then-4-year old. The best thing you can do is try to limit the nap to 60-90 minutes, and then wake them up.

Time Their Wake Up

Many times the act of waking a toddler up will backfire because the child is then groggy and cranky. And we all know that this behavior can ruin part or all of the afternoon. If this has happened to you, I would suggest you watch your toddler around the 60-minute mark after they fall asleep. They will usually stir a bit when they go through a sleep cycle (which occurs roughly every 60 minutes for kids that age). This is the ideal time to wake them up since they are not in a deep REM sleep cycle.


Make Some Noise

Also, it’s often best if a sound wakes up your child instead of you. If possible, when you see them going from one sleep cycle to another, close a cabinet outside their room. Or drop something not too loud right outside their door. Or walk by their room loudly if you have wood floors. My experience has shown me that children who are woken by some external sound, as opposed to a parent who is gently shaking them awake, is often more successful in terms of the child’s attitude and temperament once they get up. It’s as if they have a chance to “come to” on their own terms.

Move Bedtime Later

I would also suggest you adopt a later bedtime, by about 30 minutes, for the older toddler who naps. This should help solve the problem of them not falling asleep at night.

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