The Importance of Naps — Nap. It’s a small word, but for most parents a hugely important one. Why? Sleep is a major requirement for good health, and for young kids to get enough of it, some daytime sleep is usually needed. Crucial physical and mental development occurs in early childhood, and naps provide much-needed downtime for growth and rejuvenation.
Daily naps for children are essential for good days and good nights. Many parents believe their child will sleep better at night without a nap during the day. However, Naps help keep kids from becoming overtired, other wise, they may become stressed and irritable, and their behavior may actually worsen , which not only takes a toll on their moods but may also make it harder for them to fall asleep at night. Often they become overactive, making it difficult to fall asleep at bedtime. Only after age 5 will eliminating afternoon naps help a child go to bed earlier in the evening. And naptime gives parents a brief oasis during the day and time to tackle household chores or just unwind.
Children who nap have longer attention spans and are less irritable than those who are not napping. Naps are valuable and when they are given up – usually sometime after 3 years of age – they should be replaced with a structured quiet time. Children need this time to re-group, as do their parents. This quiet time should be used for looking at books, working puzzles and play that is less active.This is not a time for TV, videos or games. All children need to learn to entertain themselves and quietly play alone.
So when are naps no longer necessary?
When his or her personality and behavior becomes consistent in the afternoon hours — There’s no one-size-fits-all answer regarding how much daytime sleep kids need. It all depends on the age, the child, and the sleep total during a 24-hour period. For example, one toddler may sleep 13 hours at night with only some daytime catnapping, while another gets 9 hours at night but takes a solid 2-hour nap each afternoon.
Sleep Needs by Age
Though sleep needs are highly individual, these age-by-age guidelines give an idea of average daily sleep requirements:
- Birth to 6 months: Infants require about 16 to 20 total hours of sleep per day. Younger infants tend to sleep on and off around the clock, waking every 2 or 3 hours to eat. As they approach 4 months of age, sleep rhythms become more established. Most babies sleep 10 to 12 hours at night, usually with an interruption for feeding, and average 3 to 5 hours of sleep during the day.
- 6 to 12 months: Babies at this age usually sleep about 11 hours at night, plus two daytime naps totaling 3 to 4 hours. At this age, most infants do not need to wake at night to feed, but may begin to experience separation anxiety, which can contribute to sleep disturbances.
- Toddlers (1 to 3 years): Toddlers generally require 10 to 13 hours of sleep, including an afternoon nap of 1 to 3 hours. Young toddlers might still be taking two naps, but naps should not occur too close to bedtime, as they may make it harder for toddlers to fall asleep at night.
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): Preschoolers average about 10 to 12 hours at night, plus an afternoon nap. Most give up this nap by 5 years of age.
- School-age (5 to 12 years): School-age kids need about 10 to 12 hours at night. Some 5-year-olds might still need a nap, and if a regular nap isn’t possible, they might need an earlier bedtime.
Signs of Insufficient Sleep
Sleep – or lack of it – is probably the most-discussed aspect of baby care. New parents discover its vital importance those first few weeks and months. The quality and quantity of an infant’s sleep affects the well-being of everyone in the household. Still, sleep is very important to kids’ well-being. The link between a lack of sleep and a child’s behavior isn’t always obvious. When adults are tired, they can be grumpy or have low energy, but kids can become hyper, disagreeable, and have extremes in behavior which can range from the obvious – like fatigue – to more subtle problems with behavior and schoolwork.
You just have to watch whether the child –
- act sleepy during the day?
- get cranky and irritable in the late afternoon?
- hard to make him/ her out of bed in the morning?
- inattentive, impatient, hyperactive, or aggressive?
- have trouble focusing on schoolwork and other tasks?
If you answer any of the above questions in yes then consider adjusting your child’s sleep or nap schedule. It may take several weeks to find a routine that works. Most kids’ sleep requirements fall within a predictable range of hours based on their age, but each child is a unique individual with distinct sleep needs. Most parents underestimate the amount of sleep kids need, so be sure to watch your child’s behavior for signs of sleep deprivation.
How Much sleep Is Enough? Setting Naptime Routines and Other Concerns
There’s no magical number of hours required by all kids in a certain age group. Here are some approximate numbers based on age-
Infants Babies (up to 6 Months)
There is no sleep formula for newborns because their internal clocks aren’t fully developed yet. They generally sleep or drowse for 16 to 20 hours a day, divided about equally between night and day.
6 to 12 Months
At 6 months, an infant may nap about 3 hours during the day and sleep about 9 to 11 hours at night. At this age, you can begin to change your response to an infant who awakens and cries during the night.
The key to good napping can be as simple as setting up a good nap routine early on and sticking to it. With infants, watch for cues like fussing and rubbing eyes, then put your baby to bed while sleepy but not yet asleep. This teaches kids how to fall asleep themselves – a skill that only becomes more important as they get older. Soft music, dim lights, or a quiet story or rhyme at bedtime can help ease the transition to sleep and become a source of comfort for your child.
For toddlers and preschoolers
Sticking to a naptime schedule can be more challenging. From ages 1 to 3, most toddlers sleep about 10 to 13 hours. Separation anxiety, or just the desire to be up with mom and dad, can motivate a child to stay awake. Establishing a bedtime routine helps kids relax and get ready for sleep. For a toddler, the routine may be from 15 to 30 minutes long and include calming activities such as reading a story, bathing, and listening to soft music.
Though many do still love their nap, others don’t want to miss out on a minute of the action and will fight sleep even as their eyes are closing. In this case, don’t let naptime become a battle – you can’t force your child to sleep, but you can insist on some quiet time. Let your child read books or play quietly in his or her room. Parents are often surprised by how quickly quiet time can lead to sleep time – but even if it doesn’t , at least your child is getting some much-needed rest. If your child has given up daytime naps, consider adjusting to an earlier bedtime.
Preschoolers sleep about 10 to 12 hours per night. A preschool child who gets adequate rest at night may no longer need a daytime nap. Instead, a quiet time may be substituted.
Most nursery schools and kindergartens have quiet periods when the kids lie on mats or just rest. As kids give up their naps, bedtimes may come earlier than during the toddler years.
School-Age Children and Pre-teens
School-age kids need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night. Bedtime difficulties can arise at this age for a variety of reasons. Homework, sports and after-school activities, TVs, computers, and video games, as well as hectic family schedules might contribute to kids not getting enough sleep.
Lack of sleep can cause irritable or hyper types of behavior and may make it difficult for kids to pay attention in school. It is important to have a consistent bedtime, especially on school nights. Be sure to leave enough time before bed to allow your child to unwind before lights out.
Adolescents need about 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep per night, but many don’t get it. Because of early school start times on top of schedules packed with school, homework, friends, and activities, they’re typically chronically sleep deprived.
And sleep deprivation adds up over time, so an hour less per night is like a full night without sleep by the end of the week. Among other things, an insufficient amount of sleep can lead to:
- decreased attentiveness
- decreased short-term memory
- inconsistent performance
- delayed response time
These can cause bad tempers, problems in school, stimulant use, and driving accidents, more than half of “asleep-at-the-wheel” car accidents are caused by teens. Teens also experience a change in their sleep patterns – their bodies want to stay up late and wake up later, which often leads to them trying to catch up on sleep during the weekend. This sleep schedule irregularity can actually aggravate the problems and make getting to sleep at a reasonable hour during the week even harder. Ideally, a teen should try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, allowing for at least 8 to 9 hours of sleep.
No matter what your child’s age, establish a bedtime routine that encourages good sleep habits. These tips can help kids ease into a good night’s sleep:
- Include a winding-down period in the routine.
- Stick to a bedtime, alerting your child both half an hour and 10 minutes beforehand.
- Encourage older kids and teens to set and maintain a bedtime that allows for the full hours of sleep needed at their age.