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I am a first-time mum to a 2.5-year-old boy and am 3 months pregnant. My son doesn't go to nursery so we are home. I'm struggling to understand my son's sleep wake pattern. I admit I messed up a lot with no routine initially but I had no idea or guidance from any family members or friends as to what or how important routines are. The inital fear of trying to 'fix' my child's bad habits has struck.

He has a few issues which are

  1. He doesn't sleep until 10pm (coming down from half 10). We have tried taking him up earlier but he's not even tired. I can take him up half 9 but he will still sleep around 10pm.
  2. He can't seem to drop his afternoon nap. I have tried many times taking him out to friends and fanily keeping him busy active, but he naturally is exhausted and falls asleep exactly 2pm in the afternoon on the sofa after lunch and a bottle of milk. I have tried waking him up after an hour but bedtime was still 10pm and normally I don't let him sleep longer than 1.5 hours or 2 max for his nap.
  3. He wakes up at half 8 in the morning half 9 on the weekend if it's quiet around we all get a lie in.

All of these issues are linked. I know if I can get him to sleep ealier, he will wake up ealier and his day will end earlier which I'm desperate by 9:30pm for it to end as that's my bed time.

However, the issue is I can't get him to stop that nap even if I succeeded pushing past nap time, he ends up sleeping in the evening around 5 or 6/6:30pm and then wakes up after 10 hours sleep at night. So he's up at 5am! And I have to keep him in bed with cartoons until he dozes off again but basically missing his 2pm nap or prolonging it messes up his entire night wake routine.

Where and how to tackle the issue of my 2.5-year-old's sleep-wake routine?

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It's possible to gently and gradually adjust your child's sleep timing and habits, but it may take some time and effort. Also make sure this is truly what you want-- if you get him sleeping at an earlier time, he will probably also wake earlier, and your lie-ins may be a thing of the past. He currently stays in bed about 10.5-11.5 hours, and I don't think you are likely to get any longer a sleep time than that. My own two year old goes to bed at 8 or 8:30 and naturally wakes about 6am.

The main principles to moving to an earlier schedule are to make bed, wakeup and nap times earlier, and to make changes slowly and gradually. You may want to go as slowly as moving nap and bedtime 5 minutes earlier every few days. It also helps to have a consistent, soothing bedtime routine that is as much as possible the same every night. For example, bath, change into pajamas, brush teeth, stories, then sleep, always in that order. You must make the routine that works for you, but pick something that is simple enough that you can stick with it on busy nights, and that is loving, relaxing, and calming for your child. Turn the lights down low as early in the routine as feasible to help his body prepare for sleep.

Keep up with tiring him out by being busy and active, and then have lunch a bit earlier than usual, set him up with his milk on the sofa and aim to get him to start his nap at 1:55 the first day, and keep shifting it bit by bit until he's starting his sleep closer to 12:30. At the same time, begin to gradually move bedtime down towards 9pm (or whatever time you have decided is appropriate).

If earlier nap and staying active isn't enough to tire him out for bedtime, you may also want to limit the time of his naps, or wake him earlier in the morning, but I had success in moving my son's bedtime just by making sure he had his nap early enough and getting a solid consistent bedtime routine in place. He started waking up earlier on his own, and usually sleeps about 1.5 hours for nap.

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Toddlers should get 11-14 hours of sleep, and for most toddlers, this includes one nap. That seems to be what you are doing.

There are kids that age who don't need a nap, but if your kid is curling up for a nap without fail every afternoon, he's not one of those. If you are hoping to skip the nap and roll it into a longer night time sleep, that's really unlikely. Waking your kid up earlier might shift his bedtime earlier, but I don't think you are going to be successful at eliminating the nap any time soon.

https://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler-naps.aspx

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