Nap. It’s such a small word, but a hugely important one. Why? Naps play an important role in a child’s physical and emotional development and are essential for good days AND good nights. Children who don’t nap well are often more irritable and fussy (and that’s putting it politely).
Many parents believe their child will sleep better at night with less napping during the day. However, if your child is super tired, he may become cranky and tantrums are lurking. They become overactive due to the production of cortisol, making it very difficult to fall asleep at bedtime. It’s proven that “sleep begets sleep” in young children. Which means, the better rested they are, the more easily and soundly they sleep. But for sure, that is easier said than done. Figuring out daytime naps can be an exhausting task in itself.
Why Napping Matters
First there are the biological needs. Babies and toddlers just cannot cope with being awake as long as older children and adults do.There are two biological processes that regulate sleep: The circadian process, also called your biological clock, which is based on light and dark, and sleep pressure, also called the homeostatic process. From the moment you wake up, you build up sleep pressure. The longer you are awake, the more sleepy you become and the more you need to sleep. While sleeping, the sleep pressure gradually reduces. For young children, the homeostatic process happens more quickly, simply meaning that they cannot tolerate being awake for long and they need to nap (several times) during the day.
The second reason is rest, development and restoration. Most experts believe that the rapid brain development happening during the early years tires little ones out. As kids grow and develop, naps give their bodies and minds time to rest and recharge. Napping helps preschool age children do better at playing a memory games, multiple studies have shown. The ones who got the greatest benefits from the nap were those who made a habit of napping every day. More research shows that children who don’t get enough sleep tend to have higher rates of obesity. Part of the reason may be tied to how they eat when they’re tired. Kids tend to eat more when they don’t sleep enough. And even more important, when kids are tired, they won’t have the energy to be active and just don’t get enough exercise.
Daily sleep needs
Children need a certain amount of sleep per day. A nap during the day helps to reach these daily sleep requirements. Many parents underestimate the need their child needs to sleep, they think their child could go with less hours than they should. It isn’t until age 4 (or even 5) that children begin consolidating all of their sleep at night, so up to that age they need to sleep during the day.
Daily needs (averages!):
Age Nighttime Sleep Daytime Sleep
Newborns Varies Varies
6- 8 months 11 1/2 hours 3 1/2 hours (2/3 naps)
9-12 months 11 hours 3 1/2 hours (2 naps)
13-18 months 11 1/4 hours 2 1/5 hours (2/1 naps)
18 mo-2.5 yrs 11 1/4 hours 2 to 2 1/2 hours (1 nap)
2.5- 4 yrs 10 1/2 hours 1 1/2 (1 nap)
4 – 5 yrs 11 1/2 hours 45 mins quiet time
I will give you more information about sleep needs, possible sleep schedules and when and how dropping naps per age group in new articles later this month.
Now you know why napping is extremely important. And although napping can be a struggle, especially as your child grows, he will test boundaries, and unfortunately, that often means that he/she wants to see what happens when they don’t nap. With the knowledge that your child needs to nap until sometime into her third or fourth year, don’t give up. Keep to the naptime routine that you have established. And don’t forget to enjoy the well-deserved mommy time that comes for free!
If you have any questions or if you could use help with napping? Leave me a message and I will reach out to you soon!