Why do preschoolers take naps
Napping: What is important at any age
Of Dina Roth Port
How many naps should children keep, how long they should take, and how that changes year after year.
All new parents know the challenges (and joys!) Of getting a baby to sleep through the night. But daytime sleep is also important - it affects how your child sleeps at night and how it feels during the day. This is important in the respective age groups:
Newborns (0 to 3 months)
That is normal: First of all, sleep is entirely relative - newborns don't sleep at set times, and there is little difference between day and night. (According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, they usually sleep 16 to 17 hours a day.)
After 8 to 12 weeks, however, a pattern sets in when the child begins to be awake at regular times during the day and sleep at night, says Dr. Jodi A. Mindell, author of Sleeping Through the Night,, Associate Director of the Sleep Center at Philadelphia Children's Hospital and Chair of the Pediatric Sleep Advisory Board. "Once the time comes, you will likely find that your baby needs a nap if he's been awake for 1.5 to 2 hours straight," says Dr. Mindell. "Don't worry if it takes up to about 4 months to see a pattern - it may take a little longer for some babies."
How fixed times settle in: Look for signs that your baby is ready to sleep - if they're moody, red eyes, staring in front of themselves, or pulling on their earlobe. Of course, you can help your baby get sleepy. "Certain processes signal your baby that it is time to relax and sleep," says Dr. Mindell. "For example, close the shutters, read from a book, sing a lullaby, speak in a calming tone or do a short version of your evening bedtime routine."
4 to 12 months
That is normal: After the first three months, a more predictable pattern of when to take naps begins to emerge. By 4 to 8 months old, babies either sleep at certain times of the day, depending on the time of day, or take shorter, more frequent naps after being awake for two hours, says Dr. Mindell. From the age of 9 months, almost all babies sleep at regular times.
How long do babies keep napping at this age? “At 4 to 6 months, they usually sleep 3 to 4 hours divided into three naps, while at 6 to 12 months they sleep 2 to 3 hours over one or two naps,” says Jennifer Waldburger, MSW, co-author of The Sleepeasy Solution and co-founder of Sleepy Planet Parenting. If your baby is taking three naps, look for signs that they can do without the third: “When babies between the 6th and 9th months slowly move on to not taking a third nap, the third nap is often shorter - we'll call it that a short nap. It is usually only 20 to 30 minutes long, "says Waldburger.
How fixed times settle in: Begin the relaxation routine about ten to fifteen minutes before it's time for a nap, Waldburger said. Lay your baby down when they are relaxed but before they are exhausted. "When babies are overtired, their bodies produce a stress hormone called cortisol, which makes it difficult for them to calm down and can cause them to wake up again," says Waldburger.
The ideal time is when your baby is sleepy but still awake. "If you let it calm down without rocking or feeding it, it learns to calm itself down when it comes to an easier sleep phase during the nap," says Waldburger.
Toddlers (2 to 3 years)
That is normal: "Most toddlers take a long nap, usually shortly after lunch," says Dr. Mindell, which typically lasts between 90 minutes and 3 hours.
How fixed times settle in: "When it's time to transition from two to one nap, the second nap may be so late that your child is restless at night, or your child may simply refuse to take a second nap," says Waldburger. If that is the case , you know it's time to skip the second nap.
"If your child only takes a nap, ideally it should take place in the middle of the day," says Waldburger. Normally, the afternoon nap begins between 11:30 am and 12 noon. "If your child is still napping in the morning, postpone bedtime everyone a few days backwards by 15 to 20 minutes until 11:30 a.m. is the new time, "suggests Waldburger.
Preschool Children (4 to 5 Years)
That is normal: Some children do not have an afternoon nap after the age of four, others keep it until they are five. Those who do one start doing it between 12 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. (with an average nightly bedtime of 8 p.m.) But even if your child no longer takes an afternoon nap, that doesn't mean you shouldn't allow any more rest. "As your child gets older, nap time can be substituted for a midday nap," says Dr. Mindell. "This ensures that everyone can rest during the day, and they can also take an afternoon nap if necessary."
How fixed times settle in: There is clear evidence that a child no longer needs an afternoon nap. "You will notice that your child no longer falls asleep at the typical nap times, or that they are in a good mood and not whimpering on days when they do not have a nap," explains Dr. Mindell.
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