Naptime – a word that’s often met with meltdowns from little ones. Kids love to put off sleeping as much as possible, fighting to stay awake and fill their days with curiosity, adventure, and fun. But experienced parents can tell you that skipping naptime usually ends in irritability, struggling with feeding, and poor quality sleep at night.
But why does naptime hold so much power? Well, there are actually a couple of different reasons. So, let’s dive in!
Naptime benefits healthy development
Sleep is the time when the body and mind rest and recharge. Without healthy sleep, there’s more at stake than simply not feeling your best the next day. Not getting enough sleep can impact your child’s growth and development, as well as their mood and attention span.
Because children’s bodies are still changing and developing, they’re not designed to tolerate being awake as long as adults are. Which is where naptime comes into play. Naptime encourages healthy sleep patterns for your children and ensures that they’re getting all the sleep they need, in order to have fun and stay energetic!
Naptime and brain development
Naps are beneficial for children’s brain health. They can help support your little one’s learning abilities and strengthen their memory. Studies have shown that children who nap tend to exceed in tasks that involve language learning, memory, and other cognitive functions.
Additionally, naptime can boost their moods. One study found that 2-year-olds who did not nap were less joyful, more anxious, and became more easily frustrated than those who did nap. And we’re sure many parents would agree when we say that a well-rested child is one that is less likely to throw tantrums!
Naptime and growth
Not getting enough sleep can stunt your child’s growth. This is because our bodies are known to release the growth hormone when we’re asleep. And if we’re not sleeping enough, the growth hormone gets suppressed over the long term.
On top of that, research shows that kids who don’t get enough sleep or have irregular sleeping patterns tend to have higher rates of obesity. This may be because not enough sleep disrupts hormones that control our appetite and feelings of hunger (ghrelin) as well as hormones that tell us we are full (leptin). Not getting enough sleep causes ghrelin levels to rise and leptin levels to drop, increasing hunger and decreasing satiation. And when we don’t get enough sleep, we also don’t feel like we have enough energy to be active, further adding to the struggle of maintaining a healthy weight.
How can I tell if my child needs a nap?
Now that you know the benefits of naptime, let’s talk about how to know if your child needs a nap. Spotting the signs can take some investigative work on your part. Try asking yourself these questions:
- Does your child act sleepy during the day? (Hint: sleepy kids tend to rub their eyes)
- Is your little one acting out, moody, cranky, or whiny, especially later in the day?
- Are you struggling to wake them up in the morning?
- Is your kiddo acting inattentive, impatient, aggressive, or hyperactive?
- Does your child have a hard time focusing or following directions?
Answering yes to any of these questions can be a sign that your child may need some help with building a stronger sleep routine, which includes encouraging them to take naps during the day.
The secret to building a healthy nap routine
Getting your kids to nap can sometimes be a struggle, we’ve all been there! But there are some things that you can do to help encourage your kids to make napping a part of their healthy sleep routine.
Here are some things you can do:
- Start off slow by setting the stage with quiet time
- Play some soothing or calming music that will encourage sleepiness (you can even sing to them!)
- Read their favourite book
- Take them for a drive
You can also try including foods that support healthy sleep into their lunches to lead into an afternoon nap. Some foods you can add to their diet include cherries, chickpeas and eggs. While cherries are high in melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by our bodies that tells us when to sleep, chickpeas are rich in vitamin B6, known to support melatonin production. And eggs are high in tryptophan, an essential amino acid that our bodies need but can’t produce. Tryptophan helps trigger sleepiness.
For extra sleep support, try Orange Naturals’ Sleep Tight for Kids. This all-natural formula is designed to address your child’s sleeping needs by promoting healthy sleep and wake cycles, and relieving restlessness, sleeplessness, and an overactive mind.
How much sleep does my child need?
The amount of sleep kids need varies based on their age. Although this can differ depending on individual needs, the general recommendations are as follows:
- Infants (0-3 months) – 14 to 17 hours on and off throughout the day, waking every few hours to eat.
- Infants (4-12 months) – 12 to 16 hours, with around 2 to 3 naps during the day, where sleep during the night is longer and more continuous.
- Toddlers (1-2 years) – 11 to 14 hours, with 1 to 2 naps per day.
- Preschool (3-5 years) – 10 to 13 hours, with most kids not needing naps by this age range.
- School age (6-12 years) – 9 to 12 hours with no naps.
Since every child is different, regardless of age, your child may still need an occasional nap during the day. And that is completely normal.
As kids, we may not have appreciated naptime as much as we do now, as adults. But napping has so many benefits from helping children grow to supporting their active minds! That’s why making sure your kids are getting enough rest, both during the day and at night is an essential part of their overall health. And a healthy nap schedule means parents get some rest, too!