The transition from biphasic (two-part) to monophasic (one-part) sleep is a major developmental milestone. However, it can be challenging for both child and parent or caregiver.

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All children are different, which means they are ready to stop napping at different ages. Most transition out of naps when they are 3–5 years of age, while most stop when they reach 5 years.

This will differ depending on a child’s lifestyle, demographic factors, and more.

Parents and caregivers can ease the shift out of napping by introducing transitional strategies, such as quiet time. However, if a child has consistently low energy levels and lethargy, it may be time to contact a doctor.

Read on to learn more about the signs a child is ready to stop napping, along with strategies to make the transition easier.

All children reach developmental milestones at different times, and napping is no exception. For nearly all young children, naps are a normal part of a daily routine.

According to an older observational study of 172 children, most babies aged 9–12 months tended to take two naps per day. When they were ready, this changed to just one nap. The shift to one nap occurred at 15–24 months.

By ages 3 and 4, the rates of napping decreased, and nearly all children stopped by the age of 7.

Demographic factors might play a role also. A 2005 observational study of families in Mississippi found that many white children stopped napping before their black counterparts. At the age of 8 years, 39.1% of black children napped daily, compared to just 4.9% of white children.

Therefore, people should note that a large amount of variation in stopping naps is common, and certain cultures treat naps differently.

Toddlers may stop napping on their own when they have enough energy to get through the day without feeling sleepy. Signs that a toddler may no longer need a nap include the below.

Not falling asleep at nap time

As children get older, they will delay naps and sleep for shorter amounts of time. If they have trouble falling asleep at naptime and appear restless or fidgety, they may be ready to stop napping.

However, if a child’s mood worsens without having a nap, they are likely not ready to stop.

Caregivers can help children keep napping until they are ready to stop. Introducing a nap time routine, such as reading a story or closing the curtains, are good cues to signal nap time.

Waking up too early

Waking up too early may be a sign that a child may be ready to stop naps. The daytime nap can prevent them from feeling tired at bedtime, which means they sleep less and wake up earlier.

However, eliminating a nap may lead to oversleeping in the morning.

Caregivers can try bringing naptime forward a few hours, creating a larger gap between nap time and bedtime. One 2016 study found this technique particularly useful in toddlers between 12–18 months old. The earlier the toddlers napped in the afternoon, the longer they slept at night.

As a rule of thumb, children need to be up for at least 4 hours before they are able to fall asleep again.

Not falling asleep at bedtime

Children may no longer need naps if they are too energetic at bedtime and have trouble falling asleep. This can lead to them falling asleep later at night.

One study observed that preschoolers who took naps fell asleep 30 minutes later at bedtime than those who did not.

However, it is important to note that this was a small study that did not have a diverse sample of participants. Because 90% of the participants were white, these results may not represent accurate findings across other populations.

If a toddler is taking fewer naps and not feeling grumpy, they probably do not need to nap as often. Caregivers can help children reduce or eliminate naps in several ways. These include the below.

Replacing nap time with quiet time

This common practice at many daycares is an effective way to transition out of daily naps. Keep the same daily schedule, but open up the possibilities of naptime, and allow the child to choose what feels right to them.

Offer them the option to spend their time doing another quiet activity, such as coloring or reading.

This transitional quiet time method means that children can nap on the days they need one and choose to stay awake on the days they do not.

Avoiding long car rides around nap time

Long car journeys can induce drowsiness, especially if it is warm. If a caregiver is trying to help their child stop napping, it is a good idea to avoid sleep-inducing activities, such as going for a drive. This reduces the chance of them having an unnecessary nap.

Stopping naps gradually

Stopping napping entirely can feel disruptive and distressing. Toddlers often need adjustment periods to get used to staying awake during the day, so expect stopping naps to be a gradual process. Take it slow and pay attention to a child’s mood and energy levels.

It is important to stay patient and understand that the process of stopping naps is different for every child. This transition can be challenging, and there is no one way to do it successfully.

As a caregiver reduces their child’s naps, they may notice changes in the toddler’s mood and emotions.

Initially, they may feel irritable and grumpy. Caregivers can try introducing an earlier bedtime, which will give them the rest they need. If these mood or behavioral changes persist, it may mean they are not ready to drop their nap, even if their age suggests otherwise.

It is important to remember that the transition from biphasic (two-part) to monophasic (one-part) sleep is about how the sleep is structured more than how much sleep is needed. Caregivers should expect that when children stop napping, they need to sleep longer at night. One study found that non-napping children had a longer nighttime sleep duration than napping children.

Caregivers can help remedy this by bringing bedtime ahead by an hour or two.

It is also important to reduce naps at the right age. Dropping naps when a toddler is not ready could make them feel stressed and cause them to misbehave.

Because all children stop naps at their own pace, it is usually unnecessary to see a doctor. However, if a caregiver has concerns about a child’s consistently low energy, they can speak with a doctor. An underlying health condition could be affecting their energy levels.

A healthcare professional can also diagnose nutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of iron, which could be making them tired.

Increasing activity levels, stressful life changes, and illness can all impact a child’s energy levels. Therefore, in most cases, the causes of the toddler’s tiredness should not be a cause for concern.

Children usually transition from two naps per day to one nap per day when they are around 18 months of age. They then begin skipping their once-daily nap when they are around 3 years old. Those older than 5 years rarely take naps, and most children stop completely when they are 7 years.

Transitioning out of naps is a gradual process that requires patience. Caregivers can ease the transition by introducing quiet time, which gives children the option to either nap or play quietly.

After stopping naps, most children require more sleep at night.

Stopping naps can be a challenging process, but it is also an exciting developmental milestone. Employing transitional strategies and paying attention to a child’s moods and energy levels will help caregivers make this gradual change as smooth as possible.