A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Do kids need naps?

Young girl napping on sofa holding teddy bear - Do your kids need a nap?

No naptime rule says your child should have “x” many naps per day and stop napping at “x” age. Focus on total sleep in 24 hours instead.

Naptime – those precious moments of peace and quiet.

Unfortunately, naptime tends to disappear as children age.

“Quality sleep, and enough of it, is needed for good health,” said Dr. Hema Murali, a Marshfield Clinic pediatric neurologist and sleep medicine specialist. “Children sometimes need naps to obtain enough sleep, but it’s natural to remove naptime as a child ages.”

General naptime guidelines

No naptime rule says your child should have “x” many naps per day and stop napping at “x” age, she said. Instead, total hours of sleep during a 24-hour period should be the guide.

Naptime frequency and duration vary from child to child.

“It’s up to parents to determine whether sleep time includes naptime during the day, or just night sleep,” she said.

Here’s a guide for childhood sleep:

  • Birth to 6 months: 16 to 20 hours total. Babies nap frequently during the day. As they near four months, babies complete the majority of sleep at night with fewer day naps.
  • 6 to 12 months: 14 hours total. Typically children in this age range sleep 11 hours at night with two day naps equaling three to four hours.
  • 1 to 3 years: 11 to 13 hours total. By toddler age, children can sleep 11 or 12 hours at night with just one nap during the day.
  • 3 to 5 years: 11 to 13 hours total. Children are more likely to fight a nap at these ages. Try having “quiet time” instead. Ask your child to read or color in their room. This can naturally lead to napping.
  • 5 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours per night. Naps after age 5 are unlikely and can disrupt the quality of night sleep.

Here are four tips to help your children get more Zzzz’s.

Do what works best for your child

In general, pay attention to your child and adjust sleep habits as needed.

Babies and toddlers may rub their eyes or seem irritable. These are signs they are not getting enough sleep and their naptime or bedtime can be adjusted.

Similarly, if school-aged children are difficult to get up in the morning, cranky during the day or experiencing difficulty with performing in school, their sleep schedule may need to be adjusted.

“It can take several weeks to find a sleep schedule that works for your child,” Murali said.

Sometimes moving a nap earlier in the day can solve overtiredness that makes it difficult for a child to sleep at night.

Routine, routine

“The best lesson in napping and sleep is to find a routine that works and stick to it,” Murali said. “Consistent naptime, bedtime and wake-up time will improve your child’s overall sleep quality.”

Are your kids still groggy? Maybe their cellphones are to blame.

Time changes are harder on kids than adults. Easy tricks to help them (and you) adjust.

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