As a pediatric sleep consultant working with parents all over the world, I often see parents focusing on their children’s' total or lack there of sleep hours. Parents call me worried because their child isn’t getting the recommended hours of sleep suggested by their pediatrician.
Not too often do we see information on the correct biological timing of naps and bedtimes. Nor do we see information on how the homeostatic sleep pressure and length of wake time influences the timing of naps and bedtime. If a child isn't sleeping well at night it is often because of the timing of bedtime and naps.
For example, I just worked with 16 month old that suddenly began waking multiple times at night. He was also waking at 5:00 am for the last couple of weeks. The parents had been consistent with the sleep routine. They routinely put him down at 1:00pm for the nap and had a 7:30 pm bedtime.
It was clear to me that the length between the wake up time and nap had been too long. He was too over-stimulated by 1:00pm making it difficult to go to sleep and caused him to take a shorter nap then usual. I suggested that we move the nap an hour earlier. Within a few days, the child fell asleep within 5 minutes and slept for 2 hours. I advised a 7:00 pm bedtime as well. We saw the night wakings disappear immediately and the morning wake time resume to 6:30 am. Why? We shortened the total wake length:
•Between the morning wake up & nap time
•Between the nap time and bedtime
As one of my favorite pediatric sleep authors, Marc Weissbluth, brilliantly wrote, "Sleep is not logical. It is biological. Sleep begets sleeps.” Avoid putting your child down for naps and bedtime overtired and over-stimulated. Put them down drowsy but happy so they have a great association with sleep.