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The Transition From One to Zero Naps Is What Nightmares Are Made Of

Photograph by Twenty20

With three little ones, I’ve been through many nap transitions and changes in sleep schedules. The only consistent rules seems to be that once you settle in and become comfortable in new routine, it changes. Without warning, you find yourself back at square one to figure it all out again. It’s just the nature of the beast.

Throughout all of these adjustments, I can honestly say the transition from one nap to zero nap is the stuff nightmares are made of. No, seriously.

My boys haven’t always the champion nappers I dreamt they would be. This was especially true during their first year. Once we got into the routine of two naps a day, their naps were longer and more restful, but it wasn’t until they hit the sweet spot of one long nap a day, that I was fulfilled in this fantastic nap fantasy I longed for. It felt like winning the lottery.

This reduction to one nap not only allowed additional freedom when scheduling and planning but also provided a lengthy welcomed break during the day. The days of shitty short naps were in the past, finally reaching this beautiful paradise. Unfortunately, it also led me to believe the worst was behind us.

Currently, my 3-year-old is transitioning out of his nap all together and I’m so over it. Ever since he started preschool earlier this year, this nap rebellion emerged. Conditioned to sleep in a consistent environment since he was born, trying to take a midday snooze in a new situation was out of the question. Without the blackout shades, a fan and silence, his body just couldn’t indulge in the much-needed shut-eye. Although the weekends allowed him the privilege of resting in his beloved comfort zone, the damage was done.

And what was the end result of him fighting off his nap and going cold turkey?

Let's just say an evil entity has taken over my child’s body in the mid-afternoon, lasting throughout the rest of the night. All you can do is brace yourself for the horrific, wild ride ahead. There will be meltdowns and so many tears—from everyone.

There really isn’t any winning here.

Early waking is now a regular unwelcome visitor. He used to sleep until 6:30 a.m. Now? My husband and I pray he sleeps in until 5 a.m.

Yes, you read that right: 5 a.m.!

All of us parents know an overtired child makes for the shittiest of sleepers increasing their probability of waking early. I just wasn’t prepared for how early. Yes, we tried adjusting bedtime earlier and even later in desperate hope for early morning relief, but it didn’t matter. Nothing can cure us of the monster that now resides under my roof.

Coupled with the early waking is the frequent night waking—also due to being overtired. Two to three times throughout the night, this adorable three-foot, tiny human appears beside my bed. When asked what's wrong, his responses vary from his shirt hurting him, to he not liking his pinky toe, to missing the Christmas lights that used to hang on the palm tree in our front yard. Awesome.

Sometimes when his shenanigans wake up his younger brother, I’m greeted with two toddlers. Add in my 4-month-old who still thinks it’s fun to party in the middle of the night and there’s almost no hope to survive. I try to tell myself sleep is for losers and drown my sorrows in caffeine, but who am I kidding?

When he desperately needs a nap, we do everything in our power to persuade him to take a peaceful slumber. We’ve even gotten so desperate we try to bribe him with promise of candy. Recently, we’ve given up on the pleading and begging and just encouraged a quiet rest time during the day. This definitely does not compare or serve as an adequate substitution for an actual nap, but until his body regulates itself and adjusts to missing a nap, we’re forced to endure this horrific nightmare day in and day out.

On the rare occasion he cooperates and is sleepy enough to doze off, the outcome is anything but positive. Besides waking up crankier than he was prior to this nap, I’m left with an amped up toddler who won’t go to sleep until midnight and still wakes up at 5:30 a.m. due to some permanent internal clock. There really isn’t any winning here.

When discussing our dilemma with a family friend, they referred to this stage as the “nap purgatory.” Ain’t that the truth. Some days they need a nap. Some days they don’t. On the days they need this rest, it’ll be met with intense resistance and fought tooth and nail. Oh, and unlike the other nap transitions lasting a few weeks, this one drags on forever.

Every day I wake up and hope today is the day my child isn’t in a complete meltdown starting from the late-afternoon through bedtime. No yawns. No glassy, tired eyes. No irrational beast taking over my son’s body who can’t be reasoned with. Until that magical day is upon us, I’ll be grateful my 2-year-old is still napping strong—until he, too, decides to give up his nap and I relive this horrible nightmare all over again.

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