45 Minute Intruder Explained (+ 9 Ways To Get Baby To Nap Longer Than 45 Minutes)

Are short naps the bane of your life right now? I don’t mean baby wakes early once a week, more like almost every day your little one wakes up after only 45 minutes, and you struggle to get them to go back to sleep for a solid nap. This means you might be dealing with 45 minute intruder!

45 Minute Intruder - How To Get Baby To Nap Longer Than 45 Minutes

If your baby is struggling with quick, 45-minute naps then you know what I’m talking about: your schedule is thrown off because your baby won’t sleep enough during the day, which can lead to poor night time sleep, too. Leaving you both exhausted.

Or, you try to get her to sleep, but she wakes up after less than an hour, and then you have a cranky, overtired baby for the rest of the day.

If you’re wondering how to get baby to nap longer than 45 minutes, then this post is for you.

I’m going to address the 45-minute intruder – what it is, when short naps may be completely normal (like during teething) and I’ll share practical solutions to help your baby nap longer – like contact naps or longer wake times.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice or consultation.

What Is 45 Minutes Intruder?

If your little ones is waking regularly after only 40 or 45 minutes of napping, you’re experiencing the 45 minute intruder!

The 45-minute intruder is not just a quick cat-nap, it’s actually a sign that your baby is waking after a 45-minute sleep cycle.

There two types of sleep NREM and REM1. The lighter sleep cycles take about 35-45 minutes, until a person gets into the deeper 3 stage of NREM sleep (that lasts up to 40 minutes), and then REM sleep (which lasts up to 60 minutes)2. So, consistently waking after 45 minutes is a sign your baby is not getting deep sleep (in the third stage of NREM and REM3).

PRO TIP: If your baby is waking up after only 30 minutes of napping, check out my post about cat napping and find out why your baby doesn’t nap for more than 30 minutes. You’ll also find there helpful tips to get you through this rough patch.

What Does A 45 Minute Nap Mean & How Does It Affect My Baby’s Sleep?

The 45 minute intruder usually means your child is not able to connect sleep cycles properly and move into the deeper REM sleep that they need.

How Long Does 45 Minute Intruder Last?

The 45-minute intruder can happen at any time, due to sleep regressions, developmental changes, travel and time changes, or growth spurts.

The 45-minute intruder is common with babies from 4-5 months of age, as they learn to consolidate sleep and whenever infants are getting ready for a new nap schedule.

How Long Does 45 Minute Intruder Last

Are 45 Minute Naps OK?

There may be times that short naps ARE appropriate, so don’t assume that any short nap is a bad thing!

Here are some examples:

  • If your infant is under 3-4 months old. 30 or 40 minute naps are age appropriate for newborns4.
  • Between 7 and 8 months old is typically when babies transition to 2 naps a day. However, from 6 months you can expect your little one to take a ‘cat nap’ as their final nap of the day.
  • If you’ve recently traveled or made changes to your baby’s regular schedule. Expect it to take a few days to get back on track.

Occasional 45 minute naps may happen at other times, too. Remember, your baby is not a robot. They are growing and developing and their sleep routine will, too.

You know you’re meeting the 45-minute intruder when they are occurring regularly, especially if you are experiencing them for 2 or more naps a day.

8 Reasons Why The 45 Minute Intruder Happens

There are different reasons why the 45 minute intruder occurs, highlighting the cause is usually the best approach to helping your child get into a good nap time routine.

Check out the most common reasons why baby starts waking after only 45 minutes:

1. Baby Is Not Linking Cycles

This is number one reason for most babies waking early from a nap.

45 minutes is approximately one sleep cycle, but is not the deeper, restorative sleep babies need. We all typically wake between cycles, but can automatically fall back asleep. Babies often need help falling back asleep, this is especially true for sleeping through the night.

Learning to connect sleep cycles is essential to get your baby to sleep overnight and for baby to sleep properly at naptime.

Babies under 4 months old typically cannot connect sleep cycles5, it’s a skill they develop when they reach 5 months of age.

Most babies 3 months old or younger will take short naps. This is developmentally appropriate because they need to feed so frequently.

At around 4 months old, it’s a good idea to focus on nighttime sleep first, before addressing daytime naps. Once they are able to get a normal schedule of nighttime sleep, they are more likely to be able to get better, longer day nights in, too.

If your little one is older than 5 months and baby’s naps are still short, then keep reading – I will share tips and tricks to helping baby sleep longer or extending the nap length.

Are 45 Minute Naps OK

2. Baby Needs A New Nap Schedule – Undertired Baby

If your infant is not tired enough (or they’ve been getting light sleep in the stroller or car seat) they might not be tired enough to get in a full nap6.

As your baby grows, it is a good idea to lengthen wake windows. Studies show that getting enough activity during wake times can lead to better, deep sleep for baby’s nap, later.

PRO TIP: If you think your baby is ready for a new nap schedule, shifting from 4 naps a day down to 3, check out my other post that includes a tried-and-true nap schedule.

3. Baby Needs A New Nap Schedule – Overtired Baby

Now, while being not tired enough is one reason, the opposite can also be true: your infant could be overtired.

While an tired baby NEEDS to rest, remember, your little one is still learning how to fall asleep on their own. Shifting nap times earlier can sometimes help babies stop taking short naps.

4. Growth Spurts: Is Baby Hungry?

Babies need extra feedings when they are going through a growth spurt – your baby may be waking early from a nap because he or she is hungry.

Growth spurts happen typically around 5 or 6 months old, but observe your baby – they may be having a growth spurt on their own schedule.

5. Sleep Environment

Your baby’s room could be the culprit for waking early from naps.

Is your nursery DARK? Infants need a dark room for best sleep – this means blackout curtains on the windows and no night light.

Loud noise can wake young babies, too – make sure to reduce or muffle outside noises.

6. Which Nap Is The Problem?

Is the 45-minute nap intruder only showing his face at the final nap of the day? It is very common for the last nap of the day to be the issue.

The good news here is that this isn’t usually a sleep problem – but an opportunity for a new sleep schedule!

Why The 45 Minute Intruder Happens

7. Teething

Is it any surprise that painful, swollen gums due to teething would make your little one wake early from their nap?

There isn’t much you can do here, just remember it will pass.

8. Baby Falls Asleep With You, Only

Rocking your little one and cuddling them isn’t bad – but if it’s the only way they fall asleep, it can lead to short naps. They may be dependent on you in order to stay asleep.

Other sleep props that are in this category include pacifiers or being rocked. Your infant may wake up if their pacifier drops from their mouth, or when the rocking motion that put them to sleep stops.

How Do You Get Past The 45 Minute Intruder?

So, now that you know that the problem is, what can you do about it? The good news is, each one of these sleep problems has solutions!

1. Go Back To Sleep

The goal here is to extend baby’s naps, helping them learn to connect those sleep cycles. You want nap time to continue here, and don’t want baby to fully wake up.

  • Baby’s Age

First and foremost here is your infant’s age. Babies under 5 months of age should not be expected to have consolidated sleep. I know it’s hard, but focus first on getting enough sleep at night before trying for a longer nap.

  • Get Your Baby Back To Sleep

It’s okay to assist your little one to fall back asleep and lengthen that nap. Keep the room dark, rock your little one, or pat their back.

My favorite solutions are: contact nap (baby sleeps on your chest or in your arms), babywearing, and pushing baby in the stroller.

The goal here is to help your short napper lengthen those naps and connect sleep cycles. Basically, you want to get your baby back to sleep without becoming fully awake.

  • When It’s Time For Wake Time

If you’ve been trying for more than 10 minutes to get your little one back down for their nap, and they are still fully awake, then it’s okay to let this nap go. Don’t worry about forcing your little one back to sleep, you can try again at their next nap.

With baby napping, it’s is very common for young babies to get a long nap in during that first nap of the day. If you’re finding the 45-minute nap stressful during later naps, take heart – this is common, and it is how babies learn to get more sleep, over time.

2. Baby’s Schedule: Develop A Routine

If you suspect the 45-minute intruder is happening because your little one is undertired or overtired, in both cases you should focus on you baby’s schedule.

Set up a good sleep routine: dim the lights, read a story in a quiet, soothing voice, or include a baby massage after bathtime.

A relaxing sleep routine tells a baby it’s bedtime and can help them relax and get in longer naps. Consider moving tummy time to just after baby wakes up, instead of before naps.

When Do Babies Outgrow The 45 Minute Intruder

3. Dealing With An Undertired Baby

The solution here is also switching up baby’s nap routine, essentially expanding wake time and maximizing stimulation.

Make sure that you are focusing on activities and action during wake windows – get outside, have baby do exercise (yes, tummy time is an infant’s form of exercise!) and see if that helps baby to sleep better when it’s bedtime.

Extending those waketime lengths may mean dropping a nap, too. This means an entire new schedule – baby sleep should change as your little one grows, so see this as a good thing!

4. Dealing With An Overtired Baby

I know it can be frustrating to get your baby who is so cranky and tired, to actually sleep. Look at your awake times and see if you can put your little one down at the first sleepy cues: avoiding eye contact, yawning, wanting to be cuddled or carried.

If being overtired is regularly the case, then make wake time a bit shorter – even just 10 or 15 minutes may do the trick.

5. Having A Growth Spurt?

Is your baby taking short naps due to hunger? That’s an easy fix! Try giving a full feeding shortly before a nap, this way they should be able to pass that 45-minute mark since they won’t be hungry.

Now, it is NOT a good idea to feed a baby and put them immediately to bed- give them a few minutes to burp and relax after a feeding, and then dress them in a sleep sack and put them to bed.

  • Growth Spurts Also Mean…

A growth spurt is not just about physical growth. Your little one is growing developmentally, too. New milestones can also mean sleep regression, and this is normal. The 45-minute intruder can be present simply because your baby wants to practice sitting up. If this is the case, keep reading!

How Do You Get Past The 45 Minute Intruder

6. Change Baby’s Room For Better Sleep

If you think the sleep environment is the issue causing 45-minute naps, then make simple changes to help your baby stay asleep.

7. That Pesky Third Nap

The 45-Minute intruder might be a sign that your babe is ready for a change!

If your baby is between 6 and 8 months, or 8 and 9 months, it may be time to drop a nap (yes, I’m aware that’s a VERY large age range – all babies are different).

Signs to look for if your baby is ready to drop a nap:

  • Do they seem wide awake at the end of wake time and your struggle to get them down for a nap?
  • Do they wake up early in the morning (before 6 am) regularly?
  • Can they get in a long nap in the morning, it’s only the final nap of the day that is very short. (Do you feel like you could skip it and do an earlier bedtime?)

If you answered yes, then it might not actually be the 45-minute intruder – it may be time to drop a nap!

PRO TIP: If you think your baby is ready for transitioning from 3 naps a day down to 2, I have a whole post of tips and suggestions to make the shift easier for you both: https://www.littlebabygear.com/3-to-2-nap-transition/

8. Sleep Training: Give Baby Time To Learn To Sleep Independently

If your baby is older than 6 months and the 45-minute intruder is ruining your days, then consider sleep training. Sleep training teaches your baby to fall asleep independently.

If they can master this, then sleep consolidation will happen more easily, too. I have two favorite ways of dealing with helping a baby get past the 45-minute mark and continue a nap.

  • Pause

Do you run to the nursery the moment you hear your baby cry? I know, it’s an instinct. But as your baby gets older, it’s okay to pause before going in.

Try counting to 10 before going in and checking on them. A few days later, count to 20, and so on. You may find baby can put themselves back to sleep after all.

  • Crib Time

Another approach, which is best for older infants (I say 8 months, at least) is “crib time”. This means, they need to say in their crib, in a dim nursery for the time of their nap (or at least, for a full 60 minutes).

This way, even if they wake up, they are still in a restful, relaxed environment for a full hour, etc.

9. Down Awake

Finally, if you suspect the 45-minute intruder is due to baby being dependent on you (or a pacifier, etc) to fall asleep, the best approach is what I liked to call “down awake”. It means you lay your baby in their crib while they are still awake, but tired.

You can still enjoy a cuddle and a rock in the rocking chair, but before your little one nods off, transition them to the crib. This teaches them to fall asleep without you, and is a key to independent sleep.

When Do Babies Outgrow The 45 Minute Intruder

When Do Babies Outgrow The 45 Minute Intruder?

Babies will outgrow the 45 minute intruder – but it isn’t easy to answer when exactly that happens.

Some will outgrow it as a new nap schedule is formed, others will outgrow it when they learn to sleep independently. Since there is no exact age for nap transitions or teething, it’s impossible to establish an exact age when the 45 minute intruder will vanish, too.

However, have hope, it will happen! And your angel will sleep… well, like an angel, once again.

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.






About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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