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Car Naps: Navigating Sleep on the Go!

As parents, we all know the magic of a car ride – the soothing hum of the engine, the gentle sway of the vehicle, and before you know it, your little one is peacefully snoozing in the backseat. While car naps can be a lifesaver for tired parents, the inevitable allure of car naps can sometimes throw a wrench into even the most carefully crafted sleep routine if not managed carefully. Here I will provide some tips for navigating your baby's sleep schedule if they do happen to fall asleep in the car.

Before diving into tips for managing car naps, it's essential to understand why babies are so prone to falling asleep in the car. The combination of motion, white noise, and a cozy environment can create the perfect conditions for sleep. Additionally, the car often serves as a change of scenery, which can be stimulating for babies but also exhausting, leading to sleepiness.

Strategies for Avoiding Car Naps

  • Plan Shorter Outings: One effective strategy for avoiding car naps is to plan shorter outings that align with your baby's nap schedule. If you know your little one typically naps in the morning, try to schedule errands or activities during their awake times to minimize the chances of them falling asleep in the car.


  • Try to Keep Baby Stimulated: Engage your baby with stimulating activities during car rides to help keep them awake. Singing songs, playing games, or giving them toys to hold can help distract them and prevent them from drifting off to sleep.

Despite your best efforts, there may still be occasions when your baby falls asleep in the car. When this happens, it's essential to have a plan in place to help them get back on track with their sleep schedule:

  • Keep Track of Nap Duration: If your baby falls asleep in the car, try to keep track of how long they've been asleep. While it's tempting to let them sleep longer, especially if they're overtired, allowing them to nap for too long can disrupt their regular sleep schedule.


  • Nap duration: If your baby falls asleep in the car and it has been under 10 minutes, when you get home extend their awake time by 30-60 mins longer than their normal nap time. For example, if their nap was supposed to be at 9:30am, you would put him down at 10am or 10:30am. That short “nap” in the car (even for just a few minutes) can lower their sleep pressure, which means they need some time to build it back up to get sleepy again. If your baby has been sleeping longer than 10 minutes in the car, my best advice is to extend the car ride and make that their nap for that specific sleep period. Then when you get home, you get back on the normal nap schedule.


  • Limit Car Naps When Possible: While it's tempting to let your baby sleep in the car, especially if they're particularly fussy or overtired, try to limit car naps when possible. Extended naps in the car can disrupt your baby's sleep schedule and make it harder for them to settle into a regular routine.


  • Be Flexible: While it's important to maintain a regular sleep schedule for your baby, it's also important to be flexible and understanding that disruptions will inevitably occur from time to time. Don't stress too much if a car nap throws off your baby's routine occasionally – focus on getting back on track as soon as possible.


While car naps can be convenient in a pinch, they can also disrupt your baby's regular sleep schedule if not managed carefully. By implementing strategies to avoid car naps altogether and having a plan in place for navigating sleep schedule disruptions, you can help ensure that your little one gets the rest he need. Remember to be flexible and patient, and don't hesitate to reach out to us for a free 15 minute call if you're struggling to establish a consistent sleep routine for your baby!

About the author

Amanda Medley

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

Don't go through another night of bad sleep.

Contact us to schedule your FREE 15-minute sleep evaluation!

Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

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