Winter Napping Blues

If I would take the time to conduct a little research I swear my findings would prove that my thought is correct:  well-rested children tend to skip more naps during the winter months than any other time of the year.

This study would be based on children who are already great sleepers, sleeping consolidated nights of 10-12 hours and taking great naps during the day.  Yet come the cold, slower and indoor winter months, there are days where you lay your toddler down for a nap with zero issues and they decide to play, talk and move around for the next hour+ and never actually sleep.  You may think to yourself “what is going on?”   Well, as this has happened at my house a few times already, I figure it’s a great topic to cover – and share ways to help.

A cutie indeed! Yet frustrating when they don’t nap.

In my opinion, two reasons children play through their normal nap time are because they are too tired or they have not expended enough energy.  Seems contradicting? Let me explain.

If you’re little one is on one nap a day and typically sleeps around 1:00pm,  yet they’ve been having trouble actually sleeping at their normal nap time, there is a chance that they were too tired by their nap time.  Dr. Marc Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child explains, Fatigue causes increased arousal.  Therefore, the more tired your child, the harder it is for him to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both.” 

When you notice yawns, rubbing and tired eyes around 11:00-11:30am and yet keep your child up until their normal nap time of 1:00pm, they often won’t sleep.  They have become overtired and their cortisol levels have become too high.  This is what causes them to not sleep.  You’ve seen the classic second wind – so much energy they are bouncing off the walls.  You want to avoid that at all costs.  Why?  A second wind is a sure sign that your child will have a harder time sleeping that nap or evening.  They missed their sweet sleep window and now overtired, their body produces chemicals that literally fight sleep.  This is one classic reason they may not actually sleep during a nap period.

How can you work through this?  If your child has experienced no sleep during naps for a day or two, the third day when you see those tired signs from your child around 11:30am, act up on them and nap them immediately.  You will want to avoid pushing nap time later in hope of having success with sleep during the nap.  Do this for two days and when your child is sleeping again during that earlier nap time, then you can slowly return the nap to the “original” nap time.

So maybe you don’t see tired signs in the late morning hours, yet your child still won’t sleep during nap time.  This is likely due to lack of activity during the morning hours.  Every winter, many families experience this lack of sleep during naps which doesn’t happen in the spring, summer, or fall seasons.  Why?  Because those seasons allow one to be more active, outside with fresh air.  There is truth that expending more energy leads to better sleep.   When winter comes and the frigid weather and fear of the flu keeps you home All. The. Time, naps can take a hit.

In order to restore some daytime sleep you have to get creative during the morning hours.  Burn that energy.  Here are some fun idea to get the heart pumping and energy burnin’!
  • Dance Party! Crank up the tunes and dance until you drop! If you want to add another element of fun, close the curtains, shut the blinds, turn off the lights and have a flashlight or glow stick party. Dancing without a care, who wouldn’t have fun?
  • Red-Light, Green-Light.  A game that never gets old.  Spice it up and add in different ways of movement, walk backwards, rolling, on your tip-toes, hop like a frog, slither like a snake.
  • Tape.  You can do so much with a roll of scotch tape!  Create hopscotch (read more below on how to make it even better), roads, lines for jumping, balancing, etc.
  • Hopscotch.  Jump, bounce, move, burn that energy.  Lay some tape on the floor and get to hopping!
  • Balloons.  Again, too many ideas….move the furniture to the walls and open up the living room for loads of games: soccer, tennis, keep away, don’t let it touch the floor, balancing, races, and more and more and more.
  • Is your garage heated?  Make your way there!  Move the cars out of the garage and let the kids go crazy.  Ride their bikes and scooters.  Kick and bounce balls.  Chalk on the floor.  The possibilities are endless!
  • Obstacle course.  Oh my goodness, that word is just the tip of the iceberg!  Tents, crawling under and over, hoping, skipping – there are so many elements that no two obstacle courses will ever be the same.
  • Need more help in getting the creative juices flowing?  87 Energy-Busting Indoor Games & Activities for Kids (Because Cabin Fever is No Joke) is a must read!

You be the judge of what your child needs to reinstate daytime sleep.  Are they too tired and you’re missing their sleep window?  Or do they have too much energy from being inside too long?  Know that consistency and patience with your choice is a must as you implement the change for 3-5 days.  Don’t give up hope, they aren’t ready to drop that nap yet!  

Happy Winter Slumber

Valerie Birch

Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant at Amazing Little Sleeper
Valerie Birch is a Pediatric Sleep Expert for exhausted families who have tried evvvvverything to get their child to sleep.

Through her informative and supportive blog posts and one-on-one help, she’s here to guide your child into restorative naps and peaceful nights - while making you wonder why you didn’t contact her sooner.

When she’s not consulting?You’ll find her hanging with her 2 children, getting her sweat on at the gym or baking and indulging in warm ooey-googey chocolate-chip cookies….hobbies that balance each other out!

Meet Valerie + prepare yourself for Amazing Sleep ahead…
Valerie Birch

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