Is your baby waking 45 minutes to an hour after bedtime every night, and are then really difficult to settle back to sleep? Before you know it, it’s suddenly 9:30/10 pm and you’re wondering what went wrong.
They sleep ok through the night, and wake to start their day at a reasonable time. But because their real bedtime was so late, they only had around 10-11 hours of sleep instead of 12. And you find that when they wake in the morning they're so exhausted they need a nap shortly after waking.
Sound familiar? Your baby might be treating bedtime like a nap.
(This is different than settling your baby to sleep at bedtime and they wake but are easily resettled or just need a top up feed to fall asleep again, this is what we would call a False Start which is a topic for another day).
So what causes a baby to think bedtime is just a nap?
One of the most common reasons, is because your baby is on a later schedule than you realize! We see this happen a lot when parents are following a nap routine that has a short first wake window or a long morning nap.
Here's a common scenario: Your little one usually wakes up around 6-7 am. You think it's time to start the day, but about an hour later, they seem really tired, so you decide to let them go back to sleep. They snooze until around 9:30 am, and you consider this as their first nap of the day. As the day goes on, you offer them 2 or 3 more naps, aiming for a bedtime around 7 pm.
And if you follow us on Instagram, you might have heard us suggest aiming for bedtime around 11.5 to 12 hours after your little one wakes up in the morning - so the above sounds fine in theory right?
So, what's causing the issue then?
If your baby's first morning wake window is too short, or if their morning nap ends up being quite long, babies can treat that morning nap as if it's still nighttime sleep. So, in reality, your baby's actual morning start time is 9:30 am, not 7 am. This means their bedtime should actually be around 9:30 pm.
Your baby's behaviour is actually on the right track, but they've just naturally settled into a later schedule.
So how to stop your baby from treating bedtime like a nap?
If you’re ok with the late schedule you would actually just resettle them back to sleep at 7am, treating it like you would a night wake. That way they still get the ideal 11 to 12 hours night sleep, but it just happens on a later schedule.
But if you’d like to switch to a 7 am to 7 pm routine. You’ll wake them at 7 am and keep them up for the full recommended wake window, and cap their morning nap to the ideal age-appropriate length. After a couple of days your baby will start treating this first nap as an actual nap (rather than more night sleep) and you'll be able to successfully get them to bed by 7pm!
Our baby & toddler nap and feeding routines can help solve your sleep troubles.
We have age-appropriate routines available to follow from birth to 3 years, and have the ideal balance of awake time and nap timings to foster great nights. 5 Star Reviewed.
"I’m so shocked at how much this guide has changed my little guys sleep. And so quickly. I’m so relieved he is getting a full nights sleep and amazing naps, good sleep is so so important and I’m so grateful!" Janeece, G, Perth Australia