Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dropping Naps

I love nap time!  Best is when all three kids fall asleep around the same time and stay asleep for at least 2 hours.  However, in our household…this does not happen often.

So when do kids start dropping naps?  Sleep and the amount of sleep needed per child may vary slightly but in general toddlers require around 12 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.  They require less as they get older, thus will eventually drop their nap.

So the pattern of sleep goes something like this...

They sleep most of the time, waking up mostly to eat every 2-3 hours, after which ideally they should be awake and "play" a little before falling back asleep so to not associate eating with sleeping.

They fall into a nap pattern where they sleep about 3 times during the day… usually about an hour in the morning and early afternoon then a shorter 30 min nap in the late afternoon before going down for the night (ideally 12 hours).  They may then drop the late afternoon nap and sleep consistently maybe a little longer once in the mid morning and once in the afternoon and again about twelve hours at night.

By around 18 months, they will likely lose their morning nap and only nap in the afternoon.  Sometimes when this happens, the afternoon nap gets longer which can be nice.  However, the transition from 1 to 2 naps is sometimes tricky and not always smooth.  Kiddo #3 is around this stage… and I still can’t remember exactly how we did it with the other two.

Eventually, they lose the afternoon nap and no longer take daytime naps.  When this happens can vary from child to child.  About 70% of children will be done with naps by kindergarten.  However, this is probably more due to their schedule and what their body becomes used to and may not necessarily mean they wouldn’t benefit from that nap.

Both my girls (ages almost 3 and almost 5) are still taking afternoon naps.  Well, let me rephrase to say that we still put them down consistently every afternoon for a time of “rest” and usually they will both fall asleep.  There were many occasions after my oldest hit 3 when we thought she was “losing her nap”. However, as we kept “quiet time or nap time” consistent she still will nap for us more times than not.

Sometimes you can really tell a huge difference in behavior with kids who are not fully tanked up on sleep.  This was especially true with our oldest.  She would totally melt down and become an emotional wreck if she skips her nap.  Plus, she would have terrible night terrors at around 11pm on those nights.  We do not notice our second child being this way.

I actually just read a very interesting article describing a recent study that suggests daytime naps reduce risk of mood-related problems later in life.  Click here to read.

So this is what I do: 
  • Try to keep nap time (or quiet time) regular and consistent  
  • Try to keep their sleep environment not too stimulating and not too bright  
  • Even if the child skips his or her nap for several days in a row, I would keep trying for a while because it may be a phase and they may nap again 
  • Even some quiet time in the afternoon is better than nothing

I want my kids to nap so I can have some peace and quiet and sanity in the afternoon… but good to know that it may help their emotional health!