Q&A: nap refusal

Anonymous writes:

"So my 3-year-old daughter has been not wanting to nap for the last couple of months, but usually we make her at least lie down and 50 percent of the time she'll fall asleep anyway. She does need the nap, because she is an absolute bear by 4 pm if she doesn't nap. But now it's even worse because the past week or two she isn't napping AT ALL, plus we can't seem to get her to sleep before 8 pm, plus she's been waking up at 6:30 or 7 instead of her usual 8 am. And I've seen a bunch of FB status updates from people with kids around the same age suddenly not wanting to nap either. I know a lot of those kids are probably just dropping their nap, but do you suppose there's a seasonal aspect to all these kids suddenly not wanting to sleep at once?"

Back when I was taking Driver's Ed classes in high school, one of the many cautionary films we had to watch was called "The Final Factor." The theme of the movie was that you could deal with one distraction (like listening to the radio), or maybe two distractions (listening to the radio PLUS talking to your friend in the passenger seat), or maybe even three distractions (listening to the radio plus talking to your friend in the passenger seat PLUS rain), but there would be that one final factor that would push you over the edge into a Horrible Accident (in the movie, an animal ran across the road in front of the car, which then crashed into a tree).

I think this phase of nap refusal is yet another situation to which the Final Factor paradigm applies. Many kids this age are flirting with giving up a nap or switching the time of a nap. If everything else continues as it is they might keep going. If something changes radically, they might give it up, or start needing it more intensely. (It seems like kids who are flirting with giving up the nap right when they start preschool or another way of spending time during the daytime often dig back into the naps, although maybe at a different time of day.)

So there's that factor, that this tends to be a dodgy time for napping anyway. But let's add in the weather change, with cold then warm then the Snowtorious B.I.G. then warm then "snow hurricanes" then warm enough for open-toes shoes and iced coffee (holla) and probably cold again tomorrow. That's disturbing. I know lots of adults who have been having sleep problems, so it's got to be worse for kids.

Another factor is probably the light. Not only is is lighter both earlier and later than it was a month ago, but the quality of the light is different all day long. I can remember going to visit relatives in central Norway the summer I was 5, and just how weird and disorienting it was all day long because the light was so different from what I was used to in the US, and how much trouble I had sleeping.

Any given kid might be able to nap through one, or two, or even three of these factors. But....What will be...The Final Factor?

And now we're going into the time change this weekend. What's going to happen? Your guess is as good as mine. But I'm wondering if we can gather some data points. So can you please pay attention, over the next week, to what happens to your kid's daytime and nighttime sleep? And then next week I'll put up a post asking you to list what happened? It would be awesome if we could do this in an organized way for 3 years+ of time changes, and then look at the data points and see if there are patterns.

What say you now, before we observe the weekend change?