Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Naps: A Review (2 of 5)
April 8, 2024

Found in age groups

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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 184Naps: A Review (2 of 5)

4. Naps Enhance Development

A. Memory

Naps consolidate memories (Blog Post 54).  Sleep following exposure to new knowledge is beneficial for memory consolidation in early infancy. 

Three-month-old infants remembered a cartoon face about one and a half to two hours after its first presentation only when a nap followed the learning. That is, the nap strengthened the memory. 

Children between 7 months and 3 years old who had more naps (but not longer total daytime sleep durations) had higher levels of vocabulary growth, suggesting that memory consolidation with frequent naps is better than with fewer but longer naps. 

In studies of 12-month-olds, the ability of a nap, following a demonstration, to improve performance, “There was a significant positive relation between the number of naps during the retention interval and the imitation scores, suggesting that infants rely on frequent napping for memory consolidation.”  

Among 15- and 24-month-old infants, those who were able to nap after a demonstration session were less likely to perform an irrelevant action for achieving a desirable outcome. This suggests that the nap selectively helps to discard aspects of a learning experience as being not useful or relevant (“pruning” Blog Post 50). 

B. Motor Skills

Recently walking infants at about 14 months of age who were within 10 days of having given up crawling were experimentally challenged to crawl through a tunnel (Blog Post 180).  All infants received “Tunnel Task Training” consisting of experimenters demonstrating how to crawl through a tunnel, helping the standing infant get on hands and knees to begin to crawl through the tunnel, and rolling a ball through the tunnel to highlight the path.  The ‘Tunnel Task Test’ was performed by having the mothers at the other end of the tunnel encourage their infants to stoop down and crawl through the tunnel to receive a toy or treat held by the mother at the other end.  Infants were divided into two groups, both with a two-hour delay between Training and Testing:

  1. One group napped between tunnel task training and testing. (Nap)
  2. One group had no nap between tunnel task training and testing. (No Nap)

The ‘Tunnel Test’ follow-up was repeated the next day after unrestricted night sleep; sleep was measured objectively (actigraphy).  

On follow-up, the next day, only the Nap group continued to improve performance on the ‘Tunnel Task Test’

“Napping had a ‘delayed effect’ on learning.  Daytime sleep played an active role in strengthening the otherwise fragile memory of how to solve the task.  In sum, our research shows that the benefits of napping for learning are most robust after a subsequent night of sleep.”   Napping and night sleep had a cumulative effect!  

  1. Temperament

At 4 months of age, longer naps are associated with the temperament characteristics of a more positive mood and longer persistence (Blog Post 48).  At 3 years of age, longer naps are associated with the temperament characteristic of more adaptability.  More adaptable children scored lower on a rating scale to measure ADHD behaviors.  Adaptability is the temperament characteristic most important for school success.  

(To be continued)


  1. Hello. Recently we welcomed a new child into our family. Two weeks in and after a bout of cold my 23 month old is fighting bedtime. He wakes up around 7am and takes a 1-2 hour nap recently been an hour. My husband will read him a story and start the bedtime routine around 7. After he leaves the room my toddler will cry and scream for 45 minutes. Vomiting and usually fall asleep sitting up in the corner of the crib. This was never the case. Before we could put him down and he would not cry and just go to sleep. We need help. Our toddler is giving us more trouble than our newborn!

    1. Describe you toddler’s mood and behavior between 6-7pm when alone with toys (no screens or parental interaction).

  2. He plays with his toys and occasionally comes to us. He may sit for a few pages of a book but then he will get up and continue playing on his own . He doesn’t show any outward signs of drowsiness.

    1. Excellent. The bedtime routine starts around 7pm: when does a parent leave the room (lights out) and how is his mood and behavior during the bedtime routine before a parent leaves the room?

      What is his common nap pattern?

  3. He is excited for his bath, lasts 10-15min. Then his dad takes him into his room to read the cat in the hat to him in a rocking chair using a dim light. He’s fine while being read to – as soon as the book closes (after 1 time through or 4 times through the same book) he has a huge meltdown, crying to the point of hysterics and occasional vomiting. He eventually falls asleep sitting upright in the corner of his crib after 30-45 minutes.

    Common nap pattern is wind down from 11:30am-12:15pm, then goes into his sleep sack and is placed in his crib with the light for. Prior to his sisters arrival, he would simply go right to sleep. Now, he stands in his crib having another tantrum, this one only lasts roughly 15min before he falls asleep sitting upright in a corner of his crib.

    1. Specifically, from the beginning of his bath to the time when Dad leaves the room, how much time elapses? What time does Dad typically leave the room? What time does he walk up in the morning?
      How long does the nap last.

  4. From bath to end of story time it lasts 30-45 minutes. Dad leaves the room 730/745. He wakes up at 7am and his nap lasts over an hour occasionally up to two hours

    1. It is possible that he is developing pre-sleep arousal that is masked by Dad’s bedtime routine. I suggest that you do not change your routine (what you do) but temporarily start the whole process at 6:00pm so Dad is leaving the room at 6:30-6:45 for 3-5nights. Monitor duration and intensity of tantrum, falling asleep time, wake-up time, nap duration and nap-related tantrum and report back to me.
      Does he understand consequences?

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