This picture is our youngest Malachy on a morning walk and falling asleep. He was so snoozy, he couldn’t resist the motion of the pram.
It was the second day in a row he had a short morning nap, even though he is on a 1 nap routine.
We have friends over from Australia staying with us at the moment. They also have 3 kids (aged 2-7) and so there is A LOT of stimulation, and we have also had full day activities out meaning he’s had a couple of days with a little less daytime sleep.
We also think he’s having a growth spurt at the moment as his normal pot belly has disappeared!
So with both of these things, he’s a bit more tired than usual and this is why we are offering a “bridging nap” in the morning.
What is a bridging nap?
It’s a nap which is shorter than usual – usually 10-20mins but no more than 20 – which allows your little one just to get through a wake window (which they’d normally be able to do but are too tired to do on any given day).
For example, Malachy is normally going from around 7am until 1pm for his nap. He’s a little tired come 1pm, but we focus on a shorter wake window until bedtime (he wakes at 3pm and goes to bed at 7pm) so it works fine for him and for us.
However, given he is more tired than usual at the moment, he wouldn’t make it until 1pm without being exhausted.
So by giving him a bridging nap, it helps reduce some of the sleep pressure and allows him to get to the normal nap time without being so tired.
This means that you don’t have to bring the main nap earlier which could lead to a bigger wake window to bedtime.
This bigger wake window to bedtime will likely create overtiredness, which is one of the biggest drivers of night wakings and early wakings.
Why the nap duration needs to be capped…
With an addtional nap being added to a routine, there is always a concern that it can really make the main nap(s) extra difficult which is why the bridging nap is short and it’s just to tide your little one over until when they would typically sleep.
If you let that bridging nap go on too long, it can lead to the next nap being more difficult or being pushed later than you would like. Why it’s 20mins or less is because an infant’s sleep cycle lasts about 40-45mins and they go into deep sleep around the 20mins mark for about 10mins, hence keeping the nap under 20mins avoids the deep sleep part of the cycle.
When to use the bridging nap
You can use a bridging nap when you are in the 3 to 2 naps (either between naps or between nap 2 and bedtime) or during the 2 to 1 nap transition period. We would only recommend a bridging nap in the early evening if it’s needed after nursery to get your little to their ideal bedtime, for example. Sleep gets more difficult as they day goes on so planning for a bridging nap in the later afternoon can lead to an epic fail so we always recommend it to happen earlier in the day where possible.
And the other time, as explained above, is to help bridge the gap when a little one is tired but you need to keep them to their existing nap time(s).
The key is not to get greedy on a bridging nap. Even if you find it difficult to wake your baby as you know they’ll be cranky, letting that nap go on too long could lead you to not the main nap being fought leaving you with a very difficult afternoon and bedtime!
This is a great option to have for your little one – just use it wisely!
We are a husband and wife business, and are leading sleep consultants based in the UK. If you are having issues with your little one’s sleep, have a look at our sleep plans which range from an online plan to one-to-one coaching. If it feels like you’ve tried everything, then come and try the one thing you haven’t which we know works – that’s our proven sleep method Comforting Through Change™.
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