From multiple daytime naps for newborns, to half-hour naps at nursery school. The schedule and sleep time varies with the child’s age, as their own circadian rhythm, or in other words, their internal biological clock, is regularized. But these breaks during the day are still essential during their first years of life.
Studies support the importance of a nap, because it helps them regain strength but also facilitates their development. But how should babies nap for it to be really beneficial?
How long should it last?
There is no single pattern, since each child is different and has different needs. For some, half an hour is enough to regain strength and others need a two-hour nap.
According to the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP), “naps are common up to 3-4 years. But from this age, some children continue to sleep in the middle of the afternoon without interfering with their night sleep.”
It is true that as they grow up, long naps can influence the time they go to sleep at night, but when they are little, it does not affect them at all and they continue to fall asleep on time. There are even children who, if they do not take a nap, will arrive more upset and tense at night and it will be more difficult for them to fall asleep. Check out more at our site.
Regarding the number of naps:
- Newborns spend most of the day sleeping. In fact, before the age of six months they need to sleep approximately 16 to 20 hours each day and, since it is impossible for all that time to be at night, they will take many daytime naps. Afterwards, that time is reduced.
- From the age of three months , babies establish a nap routine. They usually take one in the middle of the morning, another in the afternoon and maybe even a third after bathing.
- Between one and two years it is likely that one of the two breaks, usually in the morning, will be gradually eliminated. But they will continue to sleep the afternoon nap, which will be reduced in time, as the months progress. You have to let your natural biological rhythm adjust its duration.
- From two to five years. Sleep needs mean that it is recommended that children take an afternoon nap as a routine until the age of five, but this is not always the case. There are children who do not want or are unable to sleep during the day , while others give up the habit because at school they do not have time or space to lie down.
When and where to nap
There is also no ‘how to guide’ on how children should nap, although care should be taken that:
- Be more or less at the same time. As with night sleep, since they are little it is important to establish a nap routine, so that the baby can differentiate it from long night sleep.
It does not have to be at a strict time, but it is approximate. Routines give children the security they need. This way you will know, for example, that after lunch comes a nap.
- The child is comfortable and relaxed, in a quiet environment, even if it is not in his crib. If he is in his room, you have to make sure that he is not in silence or in total darkness, although it is an ideal environment to rest.
Nothing happens if you hear the daily noises of family activity, as long as they are moderate. If you get used to total silence, it will be difficult for you to sleep in places where it is impossible: at a friend’s or relative’s house, on a trip, in a hotel…, because you will startle at the slightest noise.
- There are routines to help him fall asleep that can be similar to those at night: play relaxing music, rock him in your arms, sing him a song or walk him in his stroller.
It helps the baby to regain strength, because with just a few months he no longer stops exploring and moving. This eliminates accumulated fatigue.
But it also predisposes you to retain what you learned during the day. According to a team of researchers at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany , napping improves short-term memory storage in children between the ages of one and three, whose brains are constantly evolving.
And even earlier, because babies learn while they sleep : it has been shown that naps help consolidate declarative memory, responsible for consciously evoking data and memories in children between six months and one year. It seems that sleeping at least 30 minutes helps them better retain and remember new learning, even up to 24 hours after learning it.
Taking that pause helps them assimilate what they have learned and make room for new information. After a period of sleep, they retain concepts much better. Hence the importance of continuing to take a nap in nursery school: they support their learning and they perform visual and spatial tasks better than other children who do not enjoy that time of sleep.
But daytime rest offers more advantages to the child:
- It helps you rest better at night , since the mid-afternoon nap helps you not to arrive at bedtime with excessive exhaustion, which can upset you and make it difficult for you to sleep.
- Stress is eliminated , so most kids will wake up in a good mood and ready to tackle the rest of the day.
- It reduces hyperactivity and anxiety in children , as confirmed by different studies . In addition, not taking a nap in childhood is associated with more impulsive behavior and an increased risk of depression and nightmares .
- Napping also favors children’s abstract learning , which helps them with linguistic comprehension and prediction, that is, the ability to recognize new words and phrases.
A small loss of prolonged sleep time in early childhood is related to poorer school performance and little sleep during the first four years multiplies the risk of language delay. Likewise, a sleepless night will have obvious consequences: the capacity to retain new data is reduced by almost 40%.
So now you know: your child’s nap is sacred. For it to be beneficial for him, you just have to respect his rhythms and needs, adopting some basic measures that favor it. And he remembers not to force him to suspend them because he has already turned five years old: as the AEP assures, they are not bad and there are children who are more sleepy than others and need them to continue functioning. He will decide when he doesn’t need them anymore.