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What’s so dangerous about a danger nap?

Sleep. Who knew it could be so bloody complicated?

When I was pregnant I got the message that babies prevent you from getting any sleep. I just didn’t understand what a minefield the world of sleep is when it comes to kids. 

It was a bit of a shock to learn that they don’t just wind down and go to sleep at a reasonable hour. It was a bit of a shock when I realised they wake up every hour some nights.

It was a bit of a shock when I learned that they don’t just nod off and nap for the required length of time automatically. 

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They actually have to be taught how to fall asleep and stay that way, and it can take years! How bonkers is that.

We all need to sleep to live, it actually takes years off of our life if we can’t achieve good sleep, and yet for some crazy reason human beings have not yet evolved to be born with the ability to just go the f*** to sleep.

This is clearly ridiculous and totally unfair to new parents everywhere. 

Then I got to learn about one of the most terrifying elements of sleep troubles that there is. The danger nap.

Witnessing your child descend into the depths of a danger nap is one of the most demoralising things you can see unfold before your eyes as a parent.

What is a danger nap? That’s a nap that occurs any time after 3.30pm. It usually occurs when your child has refused every other nap opportunity you have presented them with earlier in the day.

Or it happens when they have power napped for about 15 minutes a few times in the day, meaning they just about topped up their energy levels but by late afternoon they are totally and utterly exhausted. 

The arrival of a danger nap generally means: 

Your child won’t want to eat at dinner. They’ll be too tired and emotional to cope with sitting up and concentrating on eating.

Your child will be cranky. When you get a daytime nap, does it leave you feeling spaced out and worse than before you fell asleep? That’s what happens when your child takes a danger nap.

Your child won’t want to go to sleep. Your child will get their second wind just as bedtime arrives! Hooray!

Your child will have a crappy night’s sleep, which means so will you. 

If you have yet to experience a danger nap, you may say “why not just wake them up? Duh!”.

Ah, if only it were that simple. The trouble with most danger naps is that they occur when you aren’t looking, such as when you’re out and about in the car.

Once your child has gone, they are nearly impossible to wake up. If you do wake them up suddenly, they will make you regret it. Loudly.

In our house, we are increasingly seeing danger naps happen right before our very eyes. My youngest has decided she doesn’t want to nap at 12.30pm any more – I would be more upset about this, but my eldest hasn’t napped in the day for two years. RIP daytime nap, I miss you more than words can say. 

However she will now lie down on the rug in the living room and just nod off at about 4pm, when she realises she isn’t superhuman and actually does quite fancy a snooze.

She’s in that awkward in between age where everything is so exciting she has to experience it at 100mph, but her teeny limbs just can’t keep up. The mind is willing, the body is not quite there yet. 

She goes into such a deep sleep that the TV, her older sister banging and crashing and the cat sniffing her limp body are not enough to wake her up. 

It’s so ironic, because just 18 months ago I couldn’t get her to nap for more than five minutes without her startling awake because a gnat flew past the house. 

Now she’s nodding off into a sleep coma at the worst possible time of day!

So what can we do about danger naps?

Sadly it’s yet another parenting issue to which the answer is a simple: Sod all. 

It’s like when your kid refuses all solid foods for weeks on end. What can you do about it, apart from the obvious of keep trying? Nada. Zip. Zilch. 

You can try to keep your child occupied and encourage them to get involved with another play activity that might just give them a second wind to keep going until bedtime.

Kids just do things at their own pace, the little buggers. Eventually my little one did make it through to 6pm, when she now naturally gets tired and winds down to a respectable bedtime of 7pm. 

If you are facing the danger of the danger nap with a brave face every single day, well done to you.

You’re practically a superhero. A tired, cranky, slightly stressed-out, superhero. I’m willing to bet there’s at least one of us in every street!

Anyone else facing the daily terror of a danger nap?

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