I am at a loss here.
My 4.5 yo needs more rest. The problem is this:
If she DOES nap, she doesn't fall asleep until 10pm and will wake up too early the next day.
However if she does NOT nap, she is absolutely miserable from 5pm on. She will go to bed earlier and sleep better but from 5-8pm are horrible for everyone in the house because of her fatigue, fits, and whining.
So it seems we are at a loss. Napping doesn't work well, but neither does NOT napping. Even an earlier bedtime I don't think would work unless it is at 5pm since that is when the horrid mood always starts. We would still have 2 hours of her being unhappy. I hate seeing her so unhappy and not feeling well for the whole evening.
I KNOW she needs more rest, I just don't know how to make it work for her and our family.
FWIW, we have a pretty low sugar diet, we don't do artificial dyes. Lots of whole foods, whole grains, fruits and veggies. We get lots of exercise and playtime. We only watch TV once or twice a week. No video games at hour house. We haven't had any major life changes lately so I am just not sure what is going on here.
My DS is only 19 months, so I can't offer any concrete advice, but have you tried alternating days--nap one day, not the next? I've heard that some children aren't quite ready for no naps, but need one occasionally while they transition out of them. How long is her nap? Could it be shorter or could she get more exercise afterwards so that bedtime won't be so late? Good luck!
I have a 6yo and a 3yo. Both go to bed at 6.30pm. They are both well asleep by 7pm and generally sleep until about 6am. If they are really, really tired I'll put them to bed at 6pm and they'll generally wake up about the same time.
My advice would be keep her awake and then get her to bed early.
Have you tried having a quiet rest time rather than an actual nap? Reading stories alone or together, snuggling on the couch and other calm activities all work for us. I think kids can get overstimulated similar to a baby and I think it serves them well to take a break and just relax for a bit.
Also, have you looked at your meal/snack "schedule"? Oftentimes DD gets cranky in the afternoon and a little healthy snack usually helps. I have a little afternoon slump too so we'll both hang out for a bit and recharge so we're not starving by the time dinner rolls around.
We have our almost 4 (who has always needed less sleep than most his age) sleep from 7:30 or 8 to about 7:15 every night. Even a 15 minute nap will wreck bedtime and result in closer to 10 hours instead of 11.5 hours of sleep he needs. (Go see my recent post in working parents if you want to know what a nightmare full day preschool with a nap period has been.) We try to eat by 5:30, he gets to play his choice for about 30-45 minutes, and then the bedtime routine (long... includes 30 minutes of reading which is partly how we get through the cranky time) starts around 6:45.
If I were you, I would commit to a slightly earlier bedtime of 7:30 for a week. It takes us 3 days to recover from the deficit of a nap. In the meantime, he is super grumpy. So, it may take a week of 7:30 to make up for the sleep deficit and reset her clock.
In the meantime, the goal is to find a routine that works for her, you and the family (I see you have another one) that minimizes the whines but is predictable to her. Make sure she isn't hungry going into that 5pm stretch (this often kills us... as an adult, I think, 'oh, I'll have dinner ready in about 30 minutes which is soon' but the combo of tired + hungry will do him in), involve her in preparing dinner to keep her busy, see if you can find a calming activity (books, movie, bath... you know her best) that she can do for the last hour. Also, if the cranky resist bed-time routine is driving you crazy, consider PJs + teeth brushing earlier (right after dinner).
Nicole, dissertating mama to M (Nov 2007) and expecting another (Mar 2012)