Common Causes of Short Naps and How to Fix Them

Getting your little one to fall asleep and stay asleep for naps can feel like a daunting task. If your little one will only take 30 minute cat naps, know you are not alone! Nighttime sleep improves much quicker than naps due to our natural sleep drive at night. So, what are the main reasons your baby is taking short naps and what can you do about it?

Sleep Props

Your little one is relying on a sleep prop or has a sleep association that is causing them to have trouble connecting sleep cycles and lengthen their nap. This might be co sleeping, feeding to sleep, a pacifier, or movement such as rocking, bouncing or a swing. 

TIP: Take a look at what the last thing your baby uses to fall asleep. This is likely their sleep prop. You may want to consider removing the prop or changing it for something with not as strong an association (instead of feeding to sleep try rocking)

Too Bright

If your baby’s room has light coming in either from a nightlight or through the window it can cause your baby to wake fully when they come to lighter stages of sleep. We want their sleep space to be very dark. This can help promote sleep and break that short nap habit.

TIP: Tape up those garbage bags, hang some blackout drapes, turn off the lamp and get that room dark. 


This is a very common cause of short naps- especially with younger babies. Awake times are the length of time your baby is awake before their bodies need rest. When they stay awake longer than this they start to produce adrenaline and cortisol. This can lead to lots of crying, fighting sleep and short naps. On the other hand, if they aren’t tired enough they likely will have a hard time settling for sleep and a short nap to follow. 

TIP: Try keeping a log of your babe’s awake times and naps to try and find their sweet spot! There are lots of sample schedules available including our Mama Coach Guide to Awake Times linked here

Developmentally Normal

Babies between the ages of 3-5 months often take short naps (1 sleep cycle or approximately 40 minutes). This is very normal and developmentally appropriate at this age. 

TIP: Try and be patient- this is a really tough stage but it should pass as they get older and learn to connect sleep cycles and lengthen those naps. Be sure to use the tips listed above!

Some other things to keep in mind when struggling with short naps is to make sure you give your little one an opportunity to move through those lighter stages of sleep. This may look like giving them a few minutes when they wake to see if they will connect sleep cycles and put themselves back to sleep. Don’t forget that napping on the go is also a great option if you are struggling with short naps! 

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