Oh, the 45-minute nap intruder. He lives in pretty much every parent’s home. He is rude, and selfish. He doesn’t care that you’ve barely had time to re-heat your morning coffee. Or that you still have to shower. His only goal is to swoop in and ensure that your little one pops awake after only 45 minutes of nap time.
Have you heard of this scoundrel before? Or are you allllll too familiar with him (much to your dismay)?
There are ways to deal with this unscrupulous pest, and I’m going to go over all of it in this post. But I’ll try and be brief, because you probably still have to empty the dishwasher and you only have 45 minutes, right? 😉
What is the 45-minute nap intruder?
If you’re not already acquainted, the 45-minute nap intruder is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when your baby wakes up from their nap after only 45 minutes. Consistently. Like to the minute. Although sometimes it’s 32 minutes. Sometimes it’s 46. Every baby is different, after all, but the main prerequisite of a nap intruder is that the nap is less than an hour.
The 45-minute nap intruder is an issue, not just because your baby needs the restorative sleep that comes from a nap longer than an hour, but it often leads to overtiredness. And since sleep begets sleep, an overtired baby is more likely to fight nighttime sleep as well. So not a cycle any parent (or baby) wants to be in.
Are 45-minute naps ever ok?
Yes, actually, there is a time and place for a 45-minute nap. That time and place is if your baby is on a 4 or 3 nap schedule and that last nap of the day is a cat nap. As long as the first 2 or 3 naps were solid (meaning 1-3 hours) then the last nap can be a short 30 ish minute nap.
Other than that cat nap, we consider all naps that are less than an hour to be incomplete. They just are not long enough for your baby to get the restorative sleep that they need.
Why 45-minute naps happen and how to prevent them
There are a few reasons why the 45-minute nap intruder may be plaguing your baby’s sleep. Here are the most likely reasons, and how you can help your baby get back to taking nice long naps:
1. Your baby does not have nap lengthening skills
The number one reason why your baby is having crap naps (aka waking up after 45 minutes) is because they do not know how to lengthen their naps yet.
Part of “sleep learning” is teaching our babies the skill of putting themselves back to sleep when they wake up. We all wake up as we go through sleep cycles, however you probably don’t notice or remember it happening the next morning, and that’s because you have the skills to initiate sleep independently and put yourself back to sleep when your body still needs sleep.
If your baby does not have independent sleep skills, then they don’t have the skills needed to lengthen their naps. If your baby is older than 4 months, then it is developmentally appropriate for you to teach independent sleep skills. First, we start with optimizing sleep, then independent sleep initiation, followed by nap lengthening. If you would like some support with this, check out my 4-24 month course or schedule an individual consultation with one of our amazing sleep consultants! Our goal is to work with you and your baby to meet all your sleep goals, in a way that works best for you.
2. Your baby is going through a sleep regression, teething or illness
Sleep regressions, teething and illness can all throw sleep off track and can definitely cause short naps. If your baby is in discomfort or pain, give them the comfort and soothing that they need while trying to fill their sleep tank. You can work on healthy independent sleep habits once they are feeling better.
If your baby is going through a sleep regression, then (unless it’s time to drop a nap) the best thing you can do is stay the course and keep offering the time and space for their nap. Know that sleep WILL bounce back.
For everything you need to know about sleep regressions, teething and illness, check out my troubleshooting guide. You can find it in my 0-4 month guide pack, my 4-24 month guide pack, and my toddler guide pack.
3. It’s time to drop a nap
Now, sometimes when short naps suddenly start happening, it means it’s time to drop a nap. Here is the breakdown of when dropping naps generally happen:
4 months: drop to 3 naps a day with an additional cat nap late in the day
4-5 months: drop the cat nap for 3 solid naps a day
6 months old: drop to 2 solid naps a day with an additional cat nap late in the day
6-9 months: drop the cat nap for 2 solid naps a day
12-16 month: drop to one nap a day
Dropping naps can be tricky, so check out this quick tip by clicking here or on the image below:
For all the details you need, I outline the whole process for each nap-dropping stage in my “Dropping Naps” troubleshooting guide, which you can find in my 0-4 month guide pack, my 4-24 month guide pack, and my toddler guide pack.
4. There’s a scheduling issue
Have a solid sleep schedule that works for YOUR baby is key to having a well-oiled sleep machine. If there is even a slight scheduling issue, then it can completely throw things off course, and one symptom is often short naps.
Below is an “average sleep chart” however it is so important to remember that every baby is different. These are just averages for a reason. Some babies have lower sleep needs and some have higher sleep needs. But I’m sharing this chart with you because it is a great place to start, and then tweak as necessary until you find your baby’s “sweet spot”.
Average Sleep Chart by Age
|Age||Number of naps per day||Ideal length of naps||Awake time between naps||Awake time before bed||Average amount of daytime sleep||Average amount of nighttime sleep||Average amount of TOTAL sleep|
|0-3 months||4-7||45-60 min||60-90 min||1-2 hours||5-8 hours||9-10 hours*||16-18 hours|
|4 months||4||60+ min||90 min||2 hours||3.5-5 hours||10-11 hours*||15-16 hours|
|5 months||3||60+ min||2 hours||2.5 hours||3.5-4.5 hours||11-12 hours*||14-16 hours|
|7 months||2||60-90 min||2-3 hours||4 hours||3-4 hours||11-12 hours||14-15 hours|
|14 months||1||2 hours||5 hours||5 hours||2-3 hours||11-12 hours||13-14 hours|
*Broken for night feedings
You will know you have found your baby’s optimal sleep schedule when they are taking solid naps during the day, falling asleep easily for naps and bedtime, and sleeping through the night (which means they are able to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up, except for any night feedings of course!)
What to do about 45-minute naps when they happen
Preventing the 45-minute nap intruder is obviously key, however it doesn’t help you much in the moment.
So, what can you do if your baby wakes up from a short nap? You have two options:
1. Try and save the nap
2. Move on adjust your schedule as needed
Saving the nap is the most optimal choice, however it’s not always an option (e.g., when your toddler isn’t totally cool with you locked away in the nursery for an hour). So if you can rock or soothe your baby back to sleep with a contact nap, then that’s great! But if it’s just not feasible, then it’s best to let them finish out the hour in their crib (depending on how content they are) and then get them up and move on with your day. You may need to adjust the timing of the following naps/bedtime to compensate for the loss of sleep. This shouldn’t throw everything off too much and you can start fresh the next day!
Recap on the 45-minute nap intruder
Hopefully you are not becoming BFFs with the 45-minute nap intruder and he is as scarce as a telemarketer call at dinner time.
If this is sadly not your reality, remember that the number one way to banish the 45-minute nap intruder is to teach your baby to connect sleep cycles and lengthen their naps (once they are at least 4 months old). Learning these skills will benefit your baby now and for the rest of their life. Let us help you! Grab my course, which walks you through the whole process and teaches you how to tailor different methods to fit YOUR baby, or hop on the phone with one of our amazing sleep consultants! Either way, we can help you reclaim the nap time both you and your baby need!