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Understanding The Importance of Nap Time for Kids’ Early Development

By Sara Nudd


Naps are the unsung heroes of our children’s lives. They help children develop by giving their minds and bodies time to recharge and grow. They help provide a break from the excitement of life, which helps prevent children from becoming overtired and fussy. That’s not to say that naps are the cure-all for your child’s temper tantrums but they could help reduce the number of tantrums they have in a day because they are given a chance to take a breather. 

It should come as no surprise that sleep helps your child to feel better cognitively and physically. The same can be said for adults, when we get enough sleep we are better able to conquer the tasks of the day, remain focused, engaged, and emotionally stable.

How do naps help with development?

Naps are not just a great way to ensure that your child can recharge and have enough energy to face the day. Naps also help children to grow to meet developmental milestones. These milestones include cognitive, physical, and emotional development. Naps help a child to grow in these areas in several ways, including:

  • Allowing for memories of the day to be stored in long-term memory. Storing memories in the long-term memory bank allows your child to be able to retrieve the information as needed. Besides, naps help in working memory. Working memory is found within short-term memory. It allows for the storage of information for a short amount of time so that it is easy to access while working through a problem. 
  • Allowing for critical thinking skills to develop. Critical thinking skills are related to a child’s ability to recall information on how to complete a task, as well as their ability to problem-solve. This is affected by the alertness of your child. When they are alert and able to focus, children are better equipped to successfully problem solve. 
  • Allowing your child time to have a chance to recharge from the day’s events. When a child does not get enough sleep they become more irritable. They are unable to fully concentrate on tasks and as a result, they become frustrated, which commonly leads to temper tantrums. 
  • Allowing for your child’s body to have a chance to stay healthy. Sleep is needed to restore the body as well as the mind from the activities and experiences of the day.
  • Allowing your child’s body to grow. While sleeping, a growth hormone is released. This hormone helps to reduce levels of stress as well as to develop. 

Naps play a critical part in your child’s development, as well as in your life. Naptime allows you, as a parent, a chance to recharge. You can decompress from the day’s events thus far so that you are better able to face the rest of the day. Naps are important for your family’s health and well-being. 

How much sleep does your kid need?

The amount of sleep that each kid needs depends on the child and their sleep needs. There are some recommended averages regarding how much sleep children should get, including:

  • Newborns: On average babies around this age need between 16-20 hours of sleep. Newborn sleep is sporadic and generally takes place in several 40 minutes to 2-hour naps throughout the day and evening, and they often wake to be fed.
  • 4-12 months: Babies who fall within this age bracket sleep anywhere from 12-16  hours a day. Most of this sleep time will happen during the night. With the rest being made up with several (2-4) naps throughout the day that last between 1 to 2 hours. 
  • Toddlers (ages 1-3 years): Toddlers need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep per day. Many will transition to taking one nap midday lasting between 1 and 3 hours.  
  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5): Preschoolers need between 10-13    hours of sleep per day. By the age of 4 and 5, most children are no longer taking naps, but they do however benefit from “quiet time.” This can be 30-60 minutes and is a great time for them to practice independent play and learn the importance of taking a break…
  • School-age (ages 5-12): School-age kids need between 9-12  hours of sleep. This sleep is usually achieved at night because they are no longer taking naps.  

These are the recommended averages of sleep for children, but every child is different. As a parent, you can see your child’s behaviors and mood, and you know them best. 

How do I know if my child is getting enough sleep?

When children don’t receive enough sleep there are some telltale signs to look for, such as:

  • Being irritable, overly emotional,  or aggressive
  • Not wanting to wake up from sleep
  • Sleepiness throughout the day
  • Being impatient and quick to become frustrated
  • Inability to focus

If your child is showing any of these signs then they may need more sleep. Your child may not be getting enough sleep for many reasons, but two specifics of which could be overstimulation or a sleep disturbance. Sleep disturbances can include nightmares, sleep apnea, and insomnia. If your child is struggling to get enough sleep day after day, it may be time to talk to a professional. 

 Certified sleep consultants, or pediatric sleep coaches, can help you to understand why your child is not receiving enough sleep and create a plan to counteract the problem. Oftentimes a coach will examine the environment in which your child sleeps as well as their sleep habits. They will look at the bedtime routine and work to help you create a routine that will be more beneficial to your child. 

Sleepably, located in Denver, CO, but helping people across the U.S. and worldwide, is staffed with certified sleep consultants who believe that you and your family deserve a full night of sleep. Our experienced staff will work with your family’s way of life and needs to create a sleep plan that ensures your child can thrive. Our child sleep coaches will walk you through a plan that includes a nap and bedtime routine. We at Sleepably are dedicated to making sure that you and your family get the sleep that you deserve. 

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