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Navigating Micro Naps.

Micro naps

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Micro naps… we’ve all experienced it – you carefully place your little one in the pram or car after a class, fully intending to capitalise on their nap time when you get home. The plan is to tackle some chores or perhaps even steal a moment to put your feet up. Everything seems on track until you glance into the rear-view mirror or peek into the pram and realise – they’re asleep, or on the verge of it! Nooooooo!

What is a micro nap?

Enter the micro nap, it is just a super short nap, lasting maybe 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. It’s not a full nap, but it can make it tough for the baby to have a proper nap later. It’s like when you’re watching a late-night movie and you’re kind of sleepy. You decide to go to bed, but by the time you’re ready, you’re wide awake – frustrating, right? Babies go through something similar, and it makes it hard for parents to get them to sleep after a micro nap.

What does a micro nap look like?

It’s not always about your baby being sound asleep; it’s the preceding stages to watch out for:

Zoned-out or starry-eyed expression

Drowsiness

Sudden head dropping or jolting back up

How to manage a micro nap.

A micro nap happens during your journey home, you face a choice. Do you risk waking them up and try to put them down for a proper nap at home, or do you keep going for a bit longer, even if it means waiting in the car or walking in the rain?  We would recommend ‘maintaining’ the nap, if it’s fairly close to the time you had planned to put them down, by driving or walking that little bit further to allow them to sleep, and calling that their nap. If, however, the micro-nap is far too early, wake them up and stretch the awake window a little more than you had planned to make up for that lost sleep pressure, before putting them down for their nap at home. (Just so you know, some lucky parents can easily move their half-asleep baby to bed, but most find it tricky.)

How can you avoid micro naps?

If you have tasks to accomplish and need to get home for nap time, try to avoid taking your baby out in the car or pram right before their nap – the motion might induce sleep too close to their awake window. Micro naps are common during feeding, especially for very young ones, so consider a wake-feed-sleep routine to minimise drowsiness during feeding. Even a brief micro nap during feeding can give babies a second wind, complicating subsequent nap attempts. If your baby appears very tired with clear sleepy cues, consider shortening their awake window to ensure a nap in the cot rather than risking a micro nap. For those transitioning naps and trying to extend awake windows, explore our top tips.

And what about toddlers and older children?

Similar things can happen, and we sometimes call these late-day naps “danger naps.” For children aged 12 months and older, a ‘danger nap’ refers to one that occurs after 3 pm, leading to tears and tantrums at bedtime. Naps are influenced by tiredness, known as “sleep pressure.” If we ease this tiredness too close to bedtime, it becomes challenging for your little one to fall asleep because their body isn’t fully prepared.

To prevent scenarios where your child might unintentionally nap after 3 pm, such as during a lengthy car ride, a stroll in the stroller, or a prolonged warm cuddle under a blanket, it’s advisable to be mindful. Instead, opt for some fresh air and a naturally sweet snack to boost their energy levels in the late afternoon, helping them navigate through to bedtime without compromising sleep.

If you’re dealing with any sleep issues with your little one, feel free to reach out. We’re here to help!

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