Taking Naps and Having Good Sleep Hygiene

The University of East Anglia study on nap frequency and cognitive skills in children suggests that frequent napping may be associated with smaller vocabularies and poorer cognitive skills. The research emphasizes individual sleep needs, indicating that some children need more frequent naps based on their ability to consolidate information during sleep. Additionally, the study found a negative association between shorter-than-expected naps for age and vocabulary development in older children. During lockdown, reduced disturbances in natural sleep patterns allowed researchers to examine intrinsic sleep needs without nursery disruptions. Furthermore, increased screen time and decreased outdoor activities did not explain differences in children's sleeping patterns during this period. The study also highlighted diverse sleep needs among children with varying recommendations for preschools' consideration of mental age when determining sleep requirements.(Gliga et al., 2023) In light of the study's findings, it is important to consider each individual child's sleep needs when it comes to napping during early childhood development.


Professional Recommendations on Naps and Sleep

Newborns (0-3 months):

  • Professional Recommendation: Newborns need a lot of sleep, typically 14-17 hours per day. They have irregular sleep patterns and tend to take short naps.
  • Napping Tips: Encourage naps every 1.5 to 2 hours, as newborns have short awake periods. Keep the sleep environment conducive to sleep with dim lighting and a comfortable temperature.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Establish a consistent pre-nap routine, such as feeding, diaper change, and gentle rocking or swaying.

Infants (4-11 months):

  • Professional Recommendation: Infants still require around 12-15 hours of sleep per day, including both nighttime sleep and naps.
  • Napping Tips: Aim for 3-4 naps a day, gradually transitioning from shorter to longer naps. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule to help regulate their internal clock.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Create a calming pre-nap routine, such as reading a book or singing a lullaby, to signal that it's naptime. 

Toddlers (1-2 years):

  • Professional Recommendation: Toddlers need 11-14 hours of sleep in total, with a combination of nighttime sleep and daytime naps.
  • Napping Tips: Most toddlers still require 1-2 naps, typically transitioning to a single afternoon nap by around 18 months.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Ensure a quiet, comfortable, and safe nap environment. Establish a consistent nap schedule to help their body anticipate rest times.

Preschoolers (3-5 years):

  • Professional Recommendation: Preschoolers should get 10-13 hours of sleep, including nighttime sleep and possibly one daytime nap.
  • Napping Tips: While some preschoolers may no longer need naps, others might benefit from a short, early afternoon nap of about 30-60 minutes.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Encourage physical activity during the day, which can help promote better sleep. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.


General Tips for Promoting Naps:

  • Routine: Establish a consistent nap schedule to regulate your child's internal clock.
  • Create a Calming Environment: Ensure the sleep environment is dark, quiet, and comfortable.
  • Limit Distractions: Minimize noise and screen time before naps to help your child unwind.
  • Comfort: Provide a soft blanket or stuffed toy for comfort during naps.
  • Timing: Pay attention to your child's sleep cues to avoid overtiredness, which can make naps difficult.
  • Daytime Activity: Engage in active play during wakeful periods, establish nighttime routines, and work towards lengthening nighttime sleep for optimal health.


Suggestions for Good Sleep Hygiene:

  • Consistent Schedule: Stick to a regular sleep schedule, including wake-up times, naps, and bedtime.
  • Bedtime Routine: Establish a calming pre-sleep routine to signal that it's time to wind down.
  • Limit Screens: Avoid screens (TV, tablets, phones) at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Avoid Heavy Meals: Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime; opt for a light snack if necessary.
  • Comfortable Bedding: Ensure the sleep environment is comfortable, with a mattress and bedding suitable for your child's age.
  • Limit Caffeine: Avoid giving young children foods and drinks with caffeine close to bedtime.


Remember, each child is unique, and their sleep needs can vary. It's essential to observe your child's cues, adjust routines accordingly, and consult with a pediatrician if you have concerns about your child's sleep patterns.

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