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I am facing a very tough time with my 3.5-year-old who suddenly is refusing to nap in the afternoon or sleep at night. She used to nap at daycare but refuses to do so at home. Due to unavoidable reasons, I have to take her out of daycare for a few months so she is with me at home the full day.

I maintain the same schedule in terms of waking her up the same time on weekends. I put her to nap at about the same time as the daycare (maybe 20 min later) as I see no signs of sleep in the afternoon. However, she refuses to nap. Nap time becomes a battle with her hitting and biting me.

These days I have stopped trying to make her nap, hoping that she would go to sleep earlier at night. Typically she would wake up at 9.30 am and I would start making her sleep at 8.30 pm, but she won't sleep until past 10 pm. It becomes a very long day for me and I am exhausted at the end of the day and always screaming at her.

Note she sleeps with us in the same bed. Also, while putting her to sleep, I lie beside her the entire duration until she sleeps, so there is no separation anxiety or any other such issue.

  • You mentioned that a) she sleeps in the same bed, and b) you scream at her. Is that out of exhaustion in the evening, or do you extensively interact, and scream at her, in bed? If yes, that may be part of the problem; it would disturb even an adults ability to sleep, I imagine. – Layna Jan 9 '15 at 12:08
  • I'd suggest trying to give her a nap without being in the bed, or if she does want to be near you, a nap on a blanket or pillows in whatever room you're in. Having you there to interact with her (even negatively, when she's hitting and biting) is a distraction and she is not relaxing. – Acire Jan 9 '15 at 13:02
  • Welcome to my nightmare. My daughter not only refused to sleep until midnight, but I also had to put her to sleep by holding her and walking about a mile around the neighborhood under the stars. Eventually what got her to calm down was bedtime stories followed by the potentially bad parenting of handing her an ipad at night and leaving the room. While the ipad thing still persists, she now goes to her room very reliably at 9:30 and sleeps the whole night. Most days she has no nap or she will start to fall asleep at 6pm and I give a bath to wake her up till bedtime. 3 years old by the way – Kai Qing Jan 19 '15 at 23:51
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It is common for children to stop napping at around 3-4 years old. My 3.5 year old is almost like yours: doesn't nap for us most days, naps for daycare. He also sleeps pretty late - 10pm is common - and wakes up by 7am (we wake him up). He just doesn't sleep all that much. Is that okay? Sure. Is it optimal? Nope... but such is life.

What we have had success with nighttime is a few things.

First off, she is old enough to likely be better off not cosleeping (unless your space requires it). Sleeping with someone else in the bed is hard; it requires dealing with that person moving about, kicking, who knows what; even a calm sleeper still breathes. If you can, I would consider seeing if sleeping in another room would help - it definitely helps my children, when we have to share a hotel room vs. have a suite there's a big difference. Children don't need much - a sleeping bag on the floor would be a lot of fun likely as a trial. Hard surface isn't at all a problem in most cases! You can still lay next to her to help her go to sleep.

Second, make sure you have a very strict routine. Bath if you have one, toothbrush, potty, books, bed - do it all in the same order every day, and have rules for how each one is done. Routine is very calming for children.

Third, develop strategies for dealing with the frustration that avoid you getting to the boiling/yelling point. I have a 3.5 and a 21 month old. I know how easy it is to get frustrated, trust me. Sometimes I get to the point that I have to swap with my wife; that is a very effective strategy, because she's calm entering the situation and the change often calms the children. A frustrated parent is an ineffective parent.

Otherwise, I have boundaries and I try to allow the children to do some things within those boundaries. If they need to run around a little, I tolerate that - as long as they understand the rules (has to be at least sort of calm running, if one is in bed no bothering that one, etc.). All of the lights are off - no nightlights if they're active. Nightlights only come on when they're settled. (And by all, I mean all - no light in the house, all curtains drawn).

Fourth, see what you can do about various near-bedtime activities. No screen time within half an hour of bed - most screens have a lot bluer spectrum that keeps people more awake. Dessert is good as long as it's not chocolate heavy - sugar makes most people sleepy. Full tummy is also good - cheese stick, carrots, that sort of thing.

Finally, sometimes I find music helpful; either played from a speaker of some sort (phone, radio, whatever) or sung with the child (you'd think that would make it worse, but it seems to calm them).

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Simple answer: If the baby is not tired, they will not sleep! Give her some physical activities, hide and seek, race, trampoline, scooter, bicycle, and just a brisk walk outside with fresh air few minutes before sleep helps.

Complicated answer: I'm not a professional, just another parent. So, don't expect one :)

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    While I agree with the concept, I'd discourage physical activity right before naptime. Plan for at least 30 minutes to wind down: Could you fall asleep right after an exciting physical activity? (ok, perhaps except for you know what) – Stephie Jan 9 '15 at 16:39
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Your 3-year old sleeps 11-12 hours per day if I've interpreted your post correctly. Kids that age often don't need more than that, although 12-13 is more typical. This will make both bed- and nap time difficult. Also, children typically gets more tired from daycare than from being at home (both for positive and negative reasons. They usually get more stimulated from interacting with lots of children and teachers, and the noise level is usually higher). Maybe the best solution is no nap at all. And if it's a problem that she is up very late, then just wake her earlier in the morning.

Now if you still want to try giving her naps, it might work if you don't express that it's a nap you're having. Tell her that you want to read her a story in bed, and if you're lucky, she's fallen asleep after a while.

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