Back when I was a first time mom, prior to becoming a child sleep consultant, I used to take really long mornings out and about with my toddler and then plan on a 2 pm nap.
It seemed like the best of both worlds. She was still napping AND we got to go do things AND I didn’t feel pressure to go out again after the second nap because by then it was 4 pm.
The only problem was, sometimes she woke up in the worst mood.
She was a perenially cheerful, easy going child but after those naps, she woke up a screaming banshee. It was puzzling. And it took a long time to calm her down, upwards of 30 minutes. It was distressing to see her so upset, but I didn’t know how to help.
Fast forward a few years, to my child sleep certification program, and I learned about sleep inertia.
Sleep inertia is what happens when we sleep at the wrong time. For us adults, it’s that horrible feeling when you wake up from a nap at 4 pm (and you slept hard). You feel confused and anxious and sleepy and just out of sorts.
The same thing happens to your child when she sleeps at the wrong time.
She may also have the added burden of having trouble falling asleep at bedtime if her nap was too late, even if she’s tired. Kids need a certain amount of time to build up adequate “sleep pressure” before they can sleep again.
She will feel so much better when she naps at times that correspond with her body’s natural production of melatonin.
These times change as your child grows, of course.
Waking a sleeping child is never fun but it’ll be a lot easier and less painful if you wake them up before these times.
If you are struggling with a tired, cranky child, schedule a complimentary sleep consultation and get your child – and your entire family – feeling amazing in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.