Why Babies Only Sleep 45 Minutes and How to Prevent Babies Catnapping

So you’ve finally put your little one for a nap and your mind races at the thought of the many things you can accomplish during that time.

You could finally take that much-needed hot shower, reheat your cold coffee, have a warm meal, start laundry, change your sheets, or take a nap yourself – the possibilities are endless!

Then, 40 minutes in, bub is awake and crying his lungs out. You were hopeful, but it never seems to fail, your little one rarely seems to sleep past the 30 or 45-minute mark. Why?

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You may have a serial catnapper on your hands. Here’s why many babies only sleep 45 minutes at a time and some tips on how to prevent babies catnapping and get them to sleep more than one sleep cycle at a time.

Why Babies Only Sleep 45 Minutes

Catnaps aren’t necessarily bad. They are a normal developmental stage starting as early as eight weeks old. Little ones have several 1 to 3-hour naps a day; the last one often being about 45 minutes long.

However, a baby who only has 45-minute naps, or sleeps less than 45 minutes at a time can be constantly overtired, which makes them more likely to fight nighttime sleep.

Here are a few reasons why babies only sleep 45 minutes at a time.

No Self-Settling Skills

A baby’s sleep cycle is about 45 minutes long, so it’s not unusual for them to rustle and stir at the end of the cycle.

When a little one doesn’t have the skills to put themselves back to sleep, you end up with a bub that only sleeps 45 minutes at a time, give or take a few minutes.

Sleep Regression, Teething, or Illness

Sleep regression is real and can happen at any time.

Just when you think you’ve got a phase down and figured out, your little one goes and changes things on you. It’s enough to drive you mad!

Teething and being sick can also disrupt a baby’s sleep as discomfort and pain can lead to shorter naps than usual. Even reflux and food allergies or intolerances can cause issues and discomfort.

Bub’s Sleep Needs Change

When short naps start happening more and more, it may be time to consider dropping a nap.

Baby’s needs are constantly changing and while dropping a nap can be tricky, it can be done with careful observation and planning.

Baby is Over or Under-Tired

If bub is not getting enough awake time or is over-tired, they will have difficulty going back to sleep between sleep cycles, leading to shorter naps.

Sleep Scheduling Issues

Not having a solid schedule can interfere with your little one’s naps.

Every baby is different, but you’ll know you’ve found the right schedule when they start taking solid naps, fall asleep easily, and sleep through the night.

Regular disruptions to their schedule, such as appointments or travelling, can also throw things off for your little one.

Bub Did Not Eat Enough Before Nap

Sometimes it is difficult to figure out why a baby may be fussy. Are they hungry? Tired?

There can also be issues preventing your little one from feeding efficiently, such as tongue-tie or reflux.

Either way, a hungry baby will not sleep very long.

Moro Reflex

Ever seen a baby jump and extend their limbs while sleeping? All babies are born with a startle or Moro reflex. This happens when they’re easily startled awake during the lighter sleep stage, which is at the end of their sleep cycle.

Baby Is Not Comfortable

Sleep environment can have a great impact on anyone’s quality of sleep. When sleep conditions aren’t adequate for bub to sleep comfortably, they’re more likely to have shorter naps.

How to Prevent Babies Catnapping

Make Them Comfy

Help your baby have longer naps and transition between sleep cycles by providing a comfortable environment to sleep in.

A dark, temperature-controlled room with white noise can be quite conducive to sleep for your little one.

Put Them to Bed with a Full Belly, Burped, and Dry

A hungry, gassy, wet baby will not sleep for long. Be sure all their needs are met before putting them down for their nap. It’ll help them feel comfy and ready for uninterrupted sleep.

baby sleep routines
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Shoten their Awake Time

If they are normally awake an hour and a half between naps, try shortening that to an hour and 15 minutes, or even one hour. One of the reasons for babies catnapping is because they are overtired. This little trick may be able to help.

Swaddle Your Little One

Your little one’s Moro reflex can startle them awake when they reach the lighter part of their sleep cycle. Swaddling can help them drift off into the next cycle without interruptions since it keeps their arms snug and comfy to their body.

Once bub starts rolling, however, you should stop swaddling them as it can be unsafe.

Avoid Sleep Props

Dummies, rocking, bouncing, or swaying may help your little one fall asleep, but they will prevent them from learning how to self-soothe and self-settle.

To help them learn to fall asleep independently, refrain from using sleep props.

Set a Timer

However, in the early days, one thing you can do to help them make the transition from one sleep cycle to the next is to set a timer for around the 35-minute mark. Sneak into their rooms and if you hear them stirring as they awake, gently pat them on the back. This may help them transition to the next sleep cycle. However, eventually, you’ll need to drop this habit which can be tricky.

Mum settling baby in cot - preventing babies catnapping
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Put Down When Awake

Try not to put your little one to bed when they’re drowsy or asleep.

Waking up in a place they did not fall asleep could startle them if they wake between sleep cycles, preventing them from falling back asleep.

Don’t Rush In

If your baby does wake up between sleep cycles, don’t rush into their room right away. Give it a few minutes.

This will allow them to use their self-settling skills to go between cycles. If they sound upset, comfort your little one, but keep the lights off and try not to be too disruptive.

Preventing babies catnapping can be tricky. Some little ones learn to transition from 45-minute naps to longer naps without a flinch while others need a little bit of assistance. We hope these tips help you overcome the dreaded 45-minute naps and allow you to enjoy a blissful 60-120-minute nap time. Just imagine!


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Avatar of Gloria Ramirez

Gloria Ruby Ramirez is a writer, mother, and lover of coffee, twinkle lights, and rain who believes in the magical power of words. She is passionate about parenting, mental health, and the environment. She is a former agricultural microbiologist/plant pathologist with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Arizona State University. Born in the desert of northern Mexico, she is mum to her beautifully energetic son and Shih Tzu, Gerty. When not writing, Gloria can be found spending time with her son and family, reading, or embroidering.

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