5 Reasons Your Baby's Naps Are Too Short

Amber Lore
Aug 04 2019

As you might guess, we’re pretty nap obsessed over here at Huckleberry. Not only does the right amount of day sleep give caregivers some much needed downtime (woohoo!), it can also help ensure that children get to bed without getting to that dreaded “overtired” stage we’re always talking about. (If you haven’t heard us mention it before, overtiredness can lead to difficulty falling asleep as well as shortened sleep.)

So when we see a family struggling with short naps, we’re all over fixing it. Here are the most common reasons we see babies taking those quick catnaps:

  1. Your child needs your help to fall asleep: While there’s absolutely nothing “wrong” with rocking or feeding your baby to sleep (it’s so sweet!), doing so can make it difficult for children to fall back to sleep on their own when they transition through sleep cycles. Parent-led sleep associations (like using movement or sucking to help your baby fall asleep) often equal shortened sleep for babies 4-5 months and up. On the flip side, once a child can fall asleep on their own, in their own sleep space, we often see longer naps.

  2. Feedings need to be adjusted: Day or night, hunger often leads to shortened sleep. While we don’t encourage caregivers to feed their baby to sleep (see Reason #1), moving feedings a bit closer to nap time can sometimes help babies sleep longer.

  3. Environment - During the newborn stage, babies can often conk out wherever they are - no matter the amount of noise or bright light. However, as babies get older, the surroundings tend to matter more and can prevent children from falling back to sleep when they wake a bit in between sleep cycles. Most children (most people for that matter!) sleep better in quiet, dark, cool rooms.

  4. Mistimed naps - We might sound like a broken record here, but timing matters a great deal for most children when it comes to the quality and length of sleep. You might have already guessed that overtiredness can impact day sleep just as much as night sleep. But it might surprise you to find out that under-tiredness can also lead to shortened naps. That’s why we developed the Huckleberry SweetSpot®: the world’s first real time predictor of when a child is next likely to be tired, but not overtired.

  5. Expectations - We’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss the fact that “short naps” can mean different things at different ages and stages. For babies 5 months and under, naps of one sleep cycle (30-45 minutes) are often developmentally appropriate. And for babies that take 3 naps, we typically find that at least one of the naps is on the shorter side - again, completely appropriate. So whether a nap is actually short depends very much on a baby’s age and napping patterns.

If you think your child could benefit from some additional day sleep, be sure to download our app to start logging their sleep. We’re always happy to analyze a child’s sleep patterns and look for ways to lengthen day sleep, as appropriate.

*Huckleberry Premium was created to make sleep consultations for children more affordable for families. We take into consideration the uniqueness of every family's lifestyle as well as their sleep goals when working to create a successful sleep plan. If you are interested in more personalized analysis and guidance for your child, sign up for Huckleberry Premium.

About the Author:

Amber LoRe is a pediatric sleep consultant with Huckleberry. She's always considered herself an advocate for children - from early jobs in daycare to her work as a family law attorney. She's been helping families get more sleep since 2011 and never gets tired of hearing success stories from happy clients. Amber lives outside NYC with her husband, their two awesome children and their rescue pup.