If you have a young child, then you know that nap time is sacred time. It’s the chance to have a snack you don’t have to share, maybe squeeze in a workout or just time to watch something on the television that isn’t a cartoon. I love nap time because I get a break and my kids wake up refreshed for an afternoon of fun–everybody wins, or so I thought. To the horror of parents everywhere, researchers in Australia recently found that letting a child over the age of two nap during the day may impact their overall quality of sleep.
From KSL.com comes the story of researchers at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology. Headed by psychology professor Karen Thorpe, the group wanted to see what impact, if any, napping during the day had on things like mental and physical health, behavior and the quality of nighttime sleep. The group did not produce its own study, but rather looked at 26 previously published studies and analyzed the results.
I breathed a small sigh of relief when I learned that the researchers couldn’t find a connection between napping and overall health, behavior or development. But while the researchers admitted the previously published literature they used to produce their findings wasn’t of the highest quality, they stood by their finding that in children over the age of two, daytime naps can lead to poorer sleep quality overall. KSL.com quotes the researchers as saying:
The evidence indicates that beyond the age of 2 years napping is associated with later night sleep onset and both reduced sleep quality and duration.
Hang on, I need to pause right here so I can go grab a tissue, because all these tears of denial are making my screen blurry.
My kids turned two last month and I have noticed in the past couple weeks that they are taking longer to fall asleep both at nap time and at night. But despite what this study says, I’m not going to give up on sweet, sweet nap time that easily.
The National Sleep Foundation says that toddlers ages one and two need 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period and that after 18 months, naps should naturally decrease to once a day from one to three hours. Under these standards, my kids are right on target (though I wish they would trend more towards three hours of nap rather than one).
Every child is different in terms of sleep patterns and there are many reasons a toddler could experience trouble sleeping that have nothing to do with the fact that they took a nap during the day. For my own kids, at this age when their molars are coming in and they are constantly stuffy from cold and flu season I’m loathe to deny them a nap when they want one.
While I may take this study into consideration once my children start to resist napping, until they flat out refuse to fall asleep for nap, I’m not going to encourage them staying awake all day.