by Amy Lage Photo: PhotoXpress.com
Today is one of my favorite holidays: National Napping Day! After losing an hour of sleep due to DST time, we are all probably in need. While you and I may celebrate this day with the rare indulgence, napping should be a daily occurrence for your little one. Here are 5 tips to ensure that your children are getting in the quality naps that they need.
- ‘When’ your child naps is much more important than you think!
The key to helping your baby achieve their best nap is having them nap at the correct time of day by following their biological clock. We all have internal clocks called circadian rhythms that make us feel drowsy at certain times of the day. It is easiest during these windows to fall asleep and they provide the most restorative sleep. As crazy as this sounds, a one-hour nap at the correct biological time is more restful than a two-hour nap that is not. The timing of these “sleep waves” changes as we age, but they are a constant for all children of the same age, varying only slightly from person to person. While it is sometimes daunting to follow a schedule, it will provide you the confidence to know exactly when your child will need to sleep and that he is getting the sleep that he needs. For more information on the appropriate timing of naps please see the WRB site.
- Different Naps Serve a Different Purpose
If your child is taking two naps a day, the morning and afternoon nap serve two different purposes. The morning nap is mentally restorative and the afternoon nap is physically restorative. Before you consider skipping one or the other, think about which part of your child’s development is worth jeopardizing!
- It Takes An Hour
In order for a nap to be effective, it must be an hour or more in duration. A nap under an hour isn’t long enough to be beneficial to your child’s body, so try to keep catnaps to a minimum. Additionally, if your child wakes up before an hour has passed, consider leaving him in his crib until the hour has elapsed. This is a great way to teach self-soothing skills and lengthen a nap, and who knows – he may surprise you and fall back to sleep!
- Your Baby Needs to Nap in His Crib
Life would be much easier if we could tote our kids anywhere and expect that they will get the sleep they need, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Babies and toddlers will achieve their very best sleep at home in their bassinet, crib, or bed. This is for two reasons: 1. Sleeping at home in their own, darkened, quiet room free of distractions ensures that your child will have an easy time falling asleep and staying asleep. 2. Babies and toddlers have better quality, more restorative sleep when they are sleeping in a stationary location – like their own bed. Vibrations or motion during sleep (think strollers and car seats) force the brain into a lighter sleep state and reduce the restorative power of the nap. It’s similar in comparison to the sleep that you get on an airplane: ok, but not really restful. An occasional nap on-the-go is fine, but most naps should be taken in your child’s bed.
- Don’t Give up On Naps Too Quickly
Before you decide your child doesn’t need to nap anymore, consider this stat: According to Dr. Weissbluth, a nationally renowned pediatrician and child sleep expert, at age 4 years, 57% of children are napping one nap/day about 5 naps/week. At age 3, 92% of children are still napping! And 80% of children who nap are napping between 1.5-2.5 hours. Napping is less influenced by genetics than parenting practices.
Amy Lage is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Family Sleep Institute certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She is founder of Well Rested Baby (www.wellrestedbaby.com). She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Amy, her husband Jeff, their 4 year old Stella, their 4 year old Harley, and their two dogs Jackson and Cody live in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. Be sure to follow WRB on Facebook too more great sleep tips!