That screaming you hear from the normally angelic toddler at your side may simply indicate a lack of sufficient sleep. Everyone needs adequate sleep, and toddlers are no exception. Sleep is necessary for good health and development. Some toddlers require more or less sleep than others, but most need an average of 10 to 13 hours each night, and a daytime nap. As an added bonus, naptime can mean some welcome “me time” for a tired Mommy!Naps for Health and Well-Being
Toddlers need sufficient sleep for good mental and physical health and development. Tired toddlers display signs of fussiness and impatience. A daily nap can provide your child with energy and the ability to maintain focus. Children who nap daily might be more adaptable and have longer attention spans than those who do not nap. A nap helps to improve the child’s mood and rejuvenate his mind and body. Naptime also provides respite for parents or caregivers.
Sleep Deprivation and Emotional Responses
A study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder shows that missing a nap affects the way toddlers express feelings and could put them at risk for developing mood disorders later in life. The study, involving toddlers between the ages of 30 to 36 months, indicated that missing a single nap increased anxiety and affected problem-solving abilities. The children were shown negative, positive and neutral pictures to invoke emotions and were given solvable and unsolvable puzzles to complete. The nap-deprived children displayed more negativity toward neutral and negative pictures, more confusion to neutral pictures and showed less positive emotion to the positive pictures. The children who did not nap also showed a 31 percent increase in negative emotion and a 39 percent decrease in confusion when trying to complete unsolvable puzzles. The children also had a 34 percent decrease in positive response to completing the solvable puzzles. Overall, the study showed that sleep plays an important role in the emotional responses toddlers have to the world around them
Daytime Naps and Bedtime
Parents sometimes worry that if their child takes an afternoon nap, he will not want to go to sleep at bedtime. If the time between the last nap and bedtime is short, then it could interfere with sleep at night. However, toddlers who don’t get enough sleep at naptime might have difficulty sleeping at night because they are overtired. As long as the child does not nap too late in the afternoon, usually beyond 3 or 4 p.m, a nap shouldn’t interfere with his nighttime sleep.
Naptime Decreases with Age
Young toddlers might nap twice a day, but as your child ages, naps decrease. By the age of 18 months, your child might take a daily nap that lasts an average of one to three hours. Each child is different and some toddlers take shorter naps. Some toddlers might resist taking an afternoon nap, even if the child is clearly tired and fighting sleep. Don’t try to force your child to nap. Insist on some quiet time instead. A child playing quietly will often fall asleep on his own.