Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
185
Naps: A Review (3 of 5)
April 15, 2024

Found in age groups

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night's Sleep

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
Chapter 1 (only 16 pages!) outlines everything you need to know about your child's sleep.

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Introduction

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 185Naps: A Review (3 of 5)

  1. More REM Sleep (Blog Post 15)

Naps are different from night sleep and long naps do not fully compensate for short night sleep.  Also, not every nap is created equal: There is more rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in the morning nap compared to the mid-day nap. The duration of REM sleep within a nap, not simply the total duration of the nap, is related to creative problem solving.

High amounts of REM sleep help direct the course of brain maturation.

REM sleep is especially important for restoring us emotionally or psychologically.  Deep, non-REM sleep is more important for physical restoration.

  1. Naps reduce stress

Levels of cortisol dramatically fall during a nap, indicating a reduction of stress in the body. Not taking a needed nap means that the body remains stressed. 

  1. Naps Enhance Emotional- and Self-Regulation and Executive Function

In toddlers of 30–36 months, when only one nap is experimentally eliminated, “acute sleep restriction causes dampened positive emotion displays when positive responses are expected (solvable puzzle), as well as increased negative emotion under challenging conditions (unsolvable puzzle).”  Experimental acute nap deprivation revealed that “toddlers were neither able to take full advantage of positive experiences nor as adaptive in challenging contexts. If insufficient sleep consistently ‘taxes’ young children’s emotion responses, they may not manage emotion regulation challenges effectively, potentially placing them at risk for future emotional/behavioral problems. Dr. Berger continued, “sleepy children may view and respond to the world differently than children who are well-rested: they may not be able to take full advantage of positive experiences and may not be as able to manage challenges.  A lack of sleep in contexts that rely on young children’s mastery of new information (e.g., preschool) may have significant and potentially dire long-term consequences [Emphasis added].” Blog Post 50.

Among children 3–6 years, naps enhance executive function (improving attention in the presence of conflicting information). This benefit was observed in children who habitually always took naps as well as in those who napped inconsistently (less than 90 percent of the time). 

(to be continued)

Comments

  1. Hi Dr. Weissbluth! My almost 5 month old just went from 4 naps to 3 naps, but she gets tired early and doesn’t make it to her old bedtime. Her bedtime used to be 7PM, but we’ve been putting her to bed at 6PM instead. She’ll wake up twice to eat overnight (around 10PM and 2:30AM) and then wake up around 5 or 6AM and have trouble falling/staying asleep. We don’t take her out of bed until 7AM, as we prefer for her to sleep 7PM to 7AM.

    She naps from 8:30-10:15AM (1.75 hours), 12-1:30PM (1.5 hours), and 3:45-4:30PM (45 min). We wake her up from her first two naps to keep her from napping too long. From 4:30-5:15PM, she’s in a good mood and plays OK independently but she’ll get tired, clingy, and then fussy around 5:30PM, so we have been putting her to bed around 6PM.

    Is it OK to keep having a 6PM bedtime? Should we be letting her nap longer and stop waking her up? We are trying to find a balance between naps and night sleep.

    Thank you for your time.

  2. I have read your book and what I took away was the importance of good quality, unfragmented night sleeep… which we’ve been chasing for a while now.

    There was a time where she was take multiple 2+ hour naps a day and not sleeping well at night, so we have been slowly cutting back on day sleep, in favor of early bedtimes, instead, to encourage her to get better restorative sleep at night. This seemed to work as there have been fewer night wakings.

    Do you recommend capping naps? At what point does day sleep interfere with night sleep?

    1. Understood.
      Please read the sections on ‘The Witching Hour’ and ‘Second Wind’ to better understand why sleep begets sleep.
      Please reread the general and age-appropriate sections on ‘Naps’.
      If, and only if, an early bedtime is present, based on drowsy signs, then more day sleep duration produces better quality night sleep.
      Does this help?

  3. Back for more advice! Our little one just turned two and is still the happiest boy! Sleeps through the night, falls asleep every night and every nap without any need for intervention.

    He’s developed a sleep pattern recently that concerns me a bit. His (one) nap have been getting longer (between 2h 45m and 3+ hours vs 1h 45m – 2h), shifting later (after 12noon vs between 11& 11:30am) and his night sleep onset is drifting later as well (8:00-8:45 vs 7-7:30pm). His sleep latency has increased dramatically as well, often rolling around his crib for over an hour before falling asleep at night. We keep his bedtime (when we put him in the crib and leave the room at around 7pm). At naptime, its usually at least 30 minutes of rolling, but sometimes an hour as well.

    My concerns are that his sleep onset is too late, which causes him to wake up too early (at or before 6am, when his usual wake time is around 6:30am), and that he’s spending too much time rolling around in his crib (even though he does this happily, with no crying or whining). In a previous exchange you advised that we not wake him from his nap, which have stopped doing almost entirely. But when he sleeps until 3pm or later, there is no hope that he will be amenable to an early 6:30pm bedtime, only 3 hours later. Any thoughts?
    Thank you!

    1. Congratulations on all that you have accomplished! For whatever reason, his schedule has ‘advanced’ and you need to bring the bedtime earlier by limiting the duration of his nap. I do write, “Never wake a sleeping baby, unless you have to correct a sleep schedule” and some only see or hear the first part. It may involve some trial and error but based on my nap study, I think limiting his nap, that is, awakening him after 2 hours would be a good starting point and then base his bedtime on drowsy signs, not clock time. The very first time you do this, he may need extra soothing in the late afternoon but this should be temporary as the earlier bedtime kicks in. Because he is super intelligent (I think!), he might have a big sleep need so do not be surprised if his new early bedditme is very early. How does this sound to you?

  4. Thank you! I appreciate your prompt reply. He is indeed very bright and there have been a lot of new developments recently particularly in language. I will try to limit his nap to 2 hours in order to stick with an earlier bedtime. He does usually become quite upset when he is awoken early form a nap. Any tips on how to do this in the most gentle way?

    1. Follow your heart. I would move the bedtime progressively earlier until he naps for
      about 2 hours and he does not show sleep inertia.

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