March 1, 2022 — By Wendy Sachs
Naps are important for so many reasons. Important physical and brain development occurs while kids sleep. There are very few children who get the required amount of sleep in one stretch over night until they are at least 3 and some kids really need to nap until kindergarten. Naps also help busy children relax and reboot as they can easily become overstimulated.
- Infants settle into a 2 a day nap schedule somewhere between 10 and 12 months and then transition to a 1 nap a day schedule somewhere between 15-21 months.
- It is important to try to fit the sleep to child’s natural schedule. Most toddlers will want a nap after lunch, but some early risers may do better with a late morning nap.
- The most restorative sleep will occur in a quiet dark place. This rest is the most beneficial rather than sleep in a car or stroller.
- Kids are ready to stop napping when they no longer sleep even when placed in bed for nap time consistently (kids will vary in their needs for sleep so watch for a real pattern) or if they can make it through the afternoon without getting crabby or irritable.
- Routines are of the upmost importance for naps.
- New studies show that memory is enhanced when there are naps during the day. There is much research about the benefits of naps for adults and children.
WHAT CAN WE DO:
- Keep a sleep journal to help parents and nanny figure out best schedule for child’s sleep. This journal will also help alert you to changes, growth spurts and to know if child is getting enough rest.
- ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE! Make sure all caregivers are communicating effectively and that the routine for naps is similar to the routine for bedtime (after an infant knows nights from days and is sleeping through the night).
- You can use quiet music, white noise, dark rooms, cool but not cold temps to help set the stage for effective and restorative sleep.
- Use different terminology for the reluctant nappers. Toddlers want to feel like they have control so try “you don’t have to sleep but you must rest” argument. Give child books or quiet toys and insist they stay in bed but they can choose not to sleep.
- Put a child to bed while still awake- rocking them to sleep or always letting them fall asleep somewhere other than bed and transferring them can make it difficult for them to learn to put themselves to sleep. Use nap time to practice this “winding down” skill.
- Make sure you aware of the transition period. Keep high energy, loud and physical activities far away from nap time. Order your day so that there is a natural progression from high energy to low energy to sleep.
- Keep nap times fairly short- most experts agree 90 minutes to 2 hours is just about right- and keep the timing so that they are awake by the late afternoon if possible. There should always be at least 4 hours of awake time between naps and bedtime.