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The 90-minute Baby Sleep Program

by Kerryn on August 26th, 2010

While I know I am very lucky that my baby is great sleeper at night, I have found day time naps to be a real challenge. For the first couple of months she would only sleep on me.  I got a bit frantic about this, but with persistence and time she in now happy to sleep on her own in her  cot (unless she is feeling sick).  Another thing that I have been struggling with is: How long should she be napping for and how often?

I’ve done a lot of online research into this and have found a lot of conflicting advice.  I also hadn’t really found anything that resonated with me until reading  The 90-Minute Baby Sleep Program by Dr Polly Moore.  She is a sleep researcher with a Ph.D. in neuroscience.  After having her own children she found she also struggled with their sleeping patterns and noticed that her daughter seemed to follow 90 minute cycles of alertness and tiredness.  She realised that this cycle corresponds to the basic human rest and activity cycle (BRAC), which occurs every hour and a half. According to the BRAC, baby should go back for a nap a mere 90 minutes after waking up.

Based on this she developed a simple program called N.A.P.S.

N: Note time when baby wakes up

A: Add 90 minutes

P: Play, feed, or pursue other activities

S: then, at the end of the 90 minutes, Soothe baby back to sleep.

When your baby wakes up again, regardless of how long she has been asleep, start the cycle over.  She also says to watch for your baby’s tired signals (rubbing eyes, yawning, crying, fussiness, impatience, losing interest in an activity, the “thousand yard stare” etc.) and to put them to sleep sooner than 90-minutes if they are clearly tired.  Another thing that she states is that frequent napping actually helps baby sleep through the night.  As your baby gets older she will drop some naps and link 90-minute cycles together (e.g. she will be happy to be awake for 3 hours, then 4.5 hours between naps).

Prior to reading this book I had been trying to stretch the time between Georgie’s naps (my 4 month old daughter) to try and get her into the “3 nap a day” cycle.  She was often fussy and when trying to get her to sleep it sometimes took ages of rocking and shushing.  I’ve been doing this 90-minute program for about 2 weeks and I have seen a remarkable change in her.  She is happy and content almost all of the time, she goes to sleep more easily and she is still sleeping beautifully at night.  There have often been times when I would look at her after 90 minutes and think, there is no way she is ready for a sleep, but after a few minutes of rocking she is (mostly) out like a light.

Now the next challenge is to get her to sleep for longer than 45 mins at a time!

From → Sleeping

  • Gauri Ma

    Hi Sarah,

    I just forwarded this post to a friend of mine who is struggling getting her 4 month old little girl to nap. Your article was very timely :)

    I have got to say until Anya was 3 or 4 months old she cat napped. It was very irregular but I figured her body knew what it was doing and she was getting enough sleep overall. For us, I think this was definitely true – but your situation may be different. Having said that, Anya wakes up every hour or two at night, still today, and she is almost 8 months old… so we have hardly got it cracked.

    Keep the articles coming. Loving every one I read :)

  • Sarah

    Thanks for this Kez! It’s been working great for Lily too! Have a much happier napper on my hands :)

  • Sarah

    Thanks for this Kez! It’s been working great for Lily too! Have a much happier napper on my hands :)

  • Marelizen

    Baby sense also mention this. They actully have it in age bands which I have found correlate very well to my litlle one.