You and your toddler are happily playing. All of a sudden, when it seems that NOTHING prompted this response, your toddler starts freaking out. You hug your little one, and she seems totally calm and fine. You start to play again, and everything is peaceful. Suddenly, she's turned into a crazy monster that cannot be contained. Every single thing is causing a meltdown. Not only are the meltdowns getting out of hand, you feel like you are going to lose your mind, and you start getting angry.
How many times has this happened to you? And how many times have you forgotten that most likely, that cutie pie just needs to sleep? And maybe everyone else around you forgets too? Most of the time this leads to everybody trying to calm your child, working on a million different solutions to fix the problem, when in reality, that kid just needs to sleep.
Even adults get this way, right? My mom is the prime example of this. She has to take a nap, or she will flat out tell you she can't be nice. She's hilarious, but she's also sooooooo right.
How often have you felt like a nap would put you in a better mood; even a short 15-minute nap? You wake up afterwards and feel a little more ready to tackle the rest of the day. However, if your nap is TOO long, do you notice that sometimes you just wake up way too groggy, and possibly more tired? Usually, it's best to take a 10-20 minute power nap, and no longer, otherwise you may experience sleep inertia. Isn't it interesting how that happens?
Just like you, the amount of sleep your child gets actually matters. How do you know how much sleep is right? All kids are different and have different sleep needs as they get older.
Some days, I think my 3-year-old daughter is fine not taking a nap, and other days, I'm positive she needs one. Sometimes, she will sit down in the afternoon, and just fall asleep. Then, she might get up three hours later, and be perfectly fine...until it's bedtime. It's almost like she's had way too much sleep, so she doesn't want to go to bed. But, in order to function better in the afternoon/early evening, a 10-20 minute nap does the trick. Usually she gets a short nap like that while driving to preschool or running an errand. And she's just a happier kid for the rest of the day.
And then there's the common issue of letting your kid get TOO tired. Cubby mom Angela Walston said, "My son totally goes Hulk on me when he's overtired. He's the best kid in the world, and I never have problems with him until he's too tired. And then he just can't cope."
Having an overtired child is NO fun--I mean, really, who wants to hang out with the Hulk? So make sure not to wait too long either. Basically, don't forget that sleep can make a huge difference in your child's behavior (and probably yours too ;) ).
If you aren't sure how long your child should be sleeping, test it out. If your child is staying up way too late at night because their nap was too long, shorten the nap. If they go to bed just fine, but are super cranky for the evening, try a quick nap. And if they are just way too tired, and aren't going to sleep at all, refer to my overtired post, and get that kid some more sleep.
Keep those children happy and well rested. While you're at it, get your sleep too. We all know you deserve it!
- Mama Jackie
*Sleep is essential. We need sleep to function, to take care of our children, to keep up on every single task life throws at us, to keep our sanity. Are you getting your eight hours or do you have a baby who is keeping you up? Let’s remedy that! In the “Rested Mamas are Happy Mamas” series of our blog, sleep expert Jackie calms all of your sleep woes. Have a question or problem that needs fixing? Comment on the series and Jackie will address your specific issue!*