Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Naps: A Review (1 of 4)
April 1, 2024

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

Blog Posts 15, based on the United States of America Department of the Army Field Manual: Holistic Healing and Fitness, describe what really matters for your child’s sleep. If sleep is an important enough topic for national defense than surely sleep should be considered a serious topic for parenting!

Blog 183Naps: A Review (1 of 4)

Introduction: There are five main elements of healthy sleep for children:

  1. Sleep duration: night and day (Blog Post 6).
  2. Sleep consolidation (Blog Post 11).
  3. Sleep schedule, timing of sleep, bedtime (Blog Post 8) (Parents’ Reports 2).
  4. Sleep regularity (Blog Post 12).
  5. Naps (Blog Posts 5356) (Parents Reports 5)

1. Nap Duration

    A. Long naps are good: Children have more positive mood and persistence. Children are better able to accept and adjust to new routines; your child is more adaptable (Blog Posts 4648 and 182).

    B. Long naps incorrectly appear to be bad: Short or fragmented night sleep causes long naps. These children may have neurobehavioral problems. The neurobehavioral problems are incorrectly associated with long naps instead of impaired night sleep. Long naps do not fully compensate for short night sleep duration. Impaired night sleep harms the child (Blog Posts 113 and 182).

2. Nap Frequency

    Habitual nappers versus non-habitual nappers: Among children 3–6 years old, three groups of children were examined based on nap habituality (Blog Post 55):

    1. Frequent nappers (napped more than 70 percent of available days).
    2. Sometime nappers (napped 15 to 70 percent of available days).
    3. Rarely nappers (napped less than 15 percent of available days).

    Objective measures of sleep showed that on an experimental nap promotion day (children were encouraged to nap between 1:00 and 3:00 P.M. by teachers’ verbal encouragement: “Today is nap day, try to sleep”), total nap sleep time increased for all three groups. Napping more did not reduce night sleep.

3. Culture Effects Napping

    A. Comparing Cultures:

    Comparing children from predominately Caucasian, Asian, and Middle East countries, Professor Jodi Mindell showed a trend towards later bedtimes, more frequent and longer night wakings, less nighttime and less daytime sleep durations, and more sleep problems in Middle East countries. Asian countries had late bedtimes perhaps attributed to placing a high value on academic accomplishment with studying late at night. Separate reports describe Spain, Italy, and South America as having late bedtimes and shorter sleep durations perhaps attributed to placing a high value on having children participate in the family evening life, including a late dinner. In some cultures, Grandparents or nannies are highly involved in child-care including naps and sleeping with the baby at night in a separate room is common. Affordability of nannies and government paid maternity leave varies greatly among different countries (Blog Post 14).

    B. Dutch study (Blog Post 101):

    For two matched groups of 8-month-old infants, one in the Netherlands and one in the U.S.A.: “The Dutch infants averaged 13.7 hours of total sleep per 24 hours, 1.7 hours more than the U.S. infants; this difference was mostly due to daytime sleep.” • Dutch parents were influenced by strong culturally shared beliefs that emphasized “the three R’s”: ‘rust’ (rest); ‘regelmaat’ (regularity), and ‘reinheid’ (cleanliness). Sleep is a major part of the notion of ‘rust’ (rest). The theme is Restful Regularity. • American parents were influenced by strong culturally shared beliefs that emphasized ‘stimulation’ because they believe that stimulation boosts baby’s brain power and advances cognitive development. The theme is Developmental Stimulation.

    C. China study (Blog Post 182):

    In China, post-lunch napping is a common practice for school age children. About 1,000 children in 6th grade who were about 12.5 years-old, took naps per week as follows:

    Never 0-2 3-4 5-7
    12% 19% 29% 40%

    “In China, napping is a common practice and is promoted as a way to facilitate children’s broadening scope of awareness and building the individual’s resources. Indeed, the extended lunch periods routinely provided by many educational institutions and government agencies factor in napping time. These positive traditions or cultural expectations may facilitate the constructive effects of napping, whereas in Western countries napping in older children is negatively perceived, which may dampen the perceived benefits of napping and outcomes.” • When the bedtime is too late, naps help: “Overall, napping was significantly associated with higher happiness, grit, and self-control, reduced internalizing behavior problem, higher verbal IQs and better academic achievement. In addition, we found that optimal academic achievement and positive psychology was associated with longer naps (31-60 minutes and greater than 60 minutes) and most frequent (5-7 times per week).”

(To be continued)


  1. Dr W – I have a 4.5 month old who sleeps throughout the night for 10.5-11.5 hrs (7:30pm bedtime to 630-730am. He has trouble staying up until 9am mid morning nap and sometimes sleeps for more than 1.5 hrs. Because he can’t seem to stay up for more than 1.5-2 hrs, it seems to be affecting his midday nap which would then last only 40 min. Right now he still takes a third nap which may start as early as 2:30pm. As a result, there’s a long stretch of wake time between his last nap ending and bedtime. I am not sure what to adjust since the issue seems to be his inability to stay up for more than 2 hrs. Would love your thoughts. Thank you.

    1. Please describe his mood and behavior between 6-7:30pm when alone with toys (no screens or parental involvement).

  2. We have never left him alone during this time. We usually start his bedtime routine during this time, where he gets his bath and drinks his last meal, which takes a while sometimes. He does not drink alot so we will spend some time to coax him to drink as much as possible before bedtime. Then we burp him, read books and sing and put him down. He rubs his eyes alot and we know he is tired. We’ve tried to push up bedtime but we need to get his last meal and when we have put him down early like 6:45pm, he would cry before falling asleep at 730 anyway.

  3. He can be quite fussy during this time but is calm during baths and will smile when we interact with him and try to make him laugh. Hopefully this answers your question – thank you!

    1. “He can be quite fussy during this time” and “He rubs his eyes a lot” tells you that his falling asleep time at night is way too late. Because he is about 4 months old, your focus is on:
      1. Early bedtimes based on drowsy signs.
      2. Encourage self-soothing skills at bedtimes.
      3. No nap schedule; instead, do whatever works to maximize daytime sleep and minimize daytime fussiness/crying.
      4. No new nap starts after 3:00pm.

  4. Thank you. We will try this today. A couple questions:
    1. If he sleeps around 6-630pm, then he could wake up before 6am. That is too early for us and also makes me unsure whether I should try to put him back to sleep right away after feeding.
    2. When should he be on a nap schedule? Your book’s chapter on 4-12 months made it seem like a nap schedule is doable at 4 months, so that’s why I have been trying to put him on a 3 nap schedule.

    1. When you move the bedtime earlier, he will wake up better rested. Then, and only then, will naps begin to fall in place. First, focus on night sleep.
      “That is too early for us “; please read the blog Posts on Brain Health and respond.

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