Are naps really necessary?

FACT: Parents of toddlers have struggled with naptime issues for years. That’s not surprising, isn’t? You’ve probably concocted every imaginable creative reasoning to lure your little one into taking a sweet nap or two.

But why? Why do you feel that Baby needs to take naps? Is it because you believe that naps can help improve their brain function, attention, memory, emotional well-being, as well as diminish behavior problems like temper tantrums?

You’re right! Naps help your growing child, and you as well. It is a moment for a brief recharge for you both, which is as necessary as a good night’s rest.

In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine believes that it’s necessary for growing children to get the right amount of nighttime sleep and nap hours per day in order to be in their best possible health. They recommend that children between the ages of 12 months up to two years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per day, including naps. Later, three to five-year-olds can do well with 10 to 13 hours of sleep including naps.

The amount of naps your child needs gradually decreases as they get older. They may have started the toddler period by napping twice a day, but by the time they're nearing the end of their third year, Baby may be perfectly happy and healthy with just one nap a day.

Naptime tips

The fear of missing out and an interest in exploration are two of the reasons why toddlers put up a fuss when it comes to taking naps.

If all Baby wants is to play with a new toy or watch a favorite cartoon, don’t be surprised if telling them “you can do that after you have taken a nap” doesn’t seem to help. From their perspective, after all, there’s no guarantee that you won’t go on to watch their show without them, and that they'll miss out. More than that, their conception of time is still developing, and “after their nap” might sound a lot like before you know it to you, but feel a lot more like in a million years to them.

Instead, just tell them “it’s time to take a nap now.” You can follow that up by giving them things that they associates with bedtime, like a blanket or a stuffed toy, or move into a simplified version of your bedtime routine.

Setting up a consistent naptime routine can help you transition Baby into daytime sleep more easily. A good time to do this is right after lunch, since it’s not too close to bedtime, and Baby will still have enough time to do other activities after.

You can help to create a soothing atmosphere by closing the window shades, turning the lights off, or by putting on calming music.

Overdoing naps

Naps can truly do wonders for a fretful toddler, but overdoing them can pose problems, too. Napping can disrupt a toddler’s nighttime sleep if the nap is taken too close to bedtime. If a nap lasts too long, and then they can’t fall asleep at night, your little one might end up feeling more tired than rested the next day. Twenty to thirty minutes is enough.

Naps are truly necessary for toddlers, and they can provide amazing benefits when done right. Remember to keep it in moderation and make the naptime routine a positive experience for your child!

  • Kirsten Weir. “The science of naps.” American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association. Retrieved November 1 2017.
  • “AAP endorses new recommendations on sleep times.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, June 13 2016. Retrieved November 1 2017.
  • “Recharge with sleep: Pediatric sleep recommendations promoting optimal health.” American Academy of Sleep Medicine. American Academy of Sleep Medicine, June 13 2016. Retrieved November 1 2017.
  • “Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 12(6): 785-786. 2016. Retrieved November 1 2017.
  • “Toddlers and Napping: How Much is Normal?” National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved November 1 2017. 

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