The 3-year sleep regression is this really a thing?
I know! Just when you think it is going to start getting easier, they throw you another curve ball! I quite often and get asked about this three year old phase. It can start from around the two-and-a-half mark or much later. But at some point in this period your child will likely hit a bump again and it can be really tricky to navigate.
This will look different for each child as some are likely to have dropped naps or be looking to drop their naps completely, whereas others are still needing a two hour nap a day. The effect of this shift can take quite a long time to settle down.
First thing is first, don't worry if your little ones behaviour is a little bits out of character. They may well seem overtired an emotional or even be lashing out at you. It is completely normal at this age! It is often put down to 'the terrible twos' or 'threenager' behaviour, but lets look at what is happening in their little lives to understand it.
They are probably at preschool or nursery, or engaged in a lots of socializing. This all leads to their they little brains are working faster than they ever have. The result of this high level of development results in them feeling overtired and needing some downtime.
If this sounds like your child, but they have already dropped their nap then do not worry. I often get asked if the nap should be reintroduced.
This is difficult to advise without looking at individual cases but generally, if the nap has been gone for a while then reintroducing it is probably not the best idea.
So how can you battle this overtiredness as ensure your child is getting the rest they need? The answer is simple! All you need to do is bring your child's bedtime forward to allow them to catch up. Parents are often worried about bringing a bedtime forward because they are afraid their child will start waking up earlier in the morning as a result. This is nothing to worry about. By bringing your child's bedtime your child's bedtime forward, all you're doing is allowing them to get the extra sleep that they need. It will not affect the wake up time in a negative way. If anything your child has likely started waking up really early in the morning. This is due to the production of cortisol due to their overtiredness. By giving them an early nights they will actually overcome overtiredness and start sleeping later, to a more appropriate time again.
By being mindful of how active your child is and allowing them to have some downtime instead of a nap this will recharge their batteries.
What if you child falls asleep during the day? should you wake them?
If your child falls asleep during a day (usually after lunch or in the car on the way to the park) then let them sleep! They obviously need it if they are crashing out during a day.
What if your child is still napping? should you drop the nap?
Every child at this age is very different. Those who are still napping can continue to do so until they are 4 or even 5. You do not need to drop that nap if your child is still sleeping well at night, sticking to a regular bedtime. When they are showing signs it is time to drop the nap, don't rush it. Each day may look different and they will need a calm environment for a peaceful rest if they are not napping. It can take up to 6 months for this nap transition be be dropped for good so be patient and take it day by day. Listen to your child. What is their behaviour really telling you?
If they have not napped then do give them an early night. As a general rule, you can put them to bed up to an hour early and it will not affect the wake up time.
(pictures of my own sleep stealers when there were in this transition period)
If you have found this blog helpful or reassuring then let me know and share with anyone who needs to read it!
For more tips please don't hesitate to get in touch or book a free call to discuss your child's sleep in person.