Back when I had one small child, I loved nap time. It meant that I got to nap right along with her! “Nap when your baby naps” is what everyone tells you when you have a baby. Yes, that works during two times of your life… 1) when you’re actually at home all day with your baby, and 2) when you only have one child. This advice doesn’t work when you have more than one child though. When your new baby comes along and naps, you still have another child that’s likely still awake and needs attention. So enjoy your naps now if you’re still on your first child!
Unlike adults, children need naps. They’re not a luxury, like they are for us. Let’s talk about 3 reasons why they’re so important…
1) Daytime sleep is part of your child’s overall sleep needs. When we think about how much sleep your child needs each day, it’s based on the total hours in a 24hr period, not just at night. If you don’t think they’re important, just try skipping one, and you’ll see just how much those naps are needed!
2) There’s an old saying of “sleep begets sleep”. That basically means that when your child sleeps well for nights, then they will usually do better doing the day. And when they nap well, they will usually sleep better over night. Why? Well, because sleep deprivation makes it harder for kids to go to sleep and stay asleep.
For example, if your 9mo child only takes 2 short 30min naps in 12hrs throughout the day, they are going to be very overly tired come bedtime. When kids are too tired at bedtime, they will fight harder to go to sleep. And then once you get them to sleep, they will usually be restless throughout the night, waking more often. AND, if that’s not enough, they almost always wake up even earlier than normal the next morning. Of course, that then sets the whole next day off with a bad start, which will compound your sleep deprivation issue.
With slightly older kids (say 1 and up), you might also have night terrors happen. If they’re going to happen, they typically do so in the first few hours after falling asleep. These are different from regular night wakings in that the children aren’t truly awake. They appear to be awake, since they can sit up, they can move around, their eyes are open, and they may even talk a bit to you, but they’re actually in a light phase of sleep, stuck between sleep cycles. It’s not super fun, since they’re harder to calm down, often don’t want touch, and you have to wait for them to fully wake up so they can “snap out of it” and actually go back to sleep. So it’s best to avoid night terrors at all costs! The way to do that is to make sure you’re child isn’t overly exhausted at bedtime, by preserving the daytime naps.
3) No naps makes for really cranky kiddos. Whether your child has skipped one of 3 naps they have in a day, or their only nap they have in a day, the results are the same. When they need the sleep and don’t get it, it leads to some unhappy children. Imagine that you only got 5hrs of sleep, when you clearly need at least 8hrs. How do you feel? Do you feel like working out? Do you feel like making dinner? Do you feel like playing with your kids or talking to your spouse? Nope, pretty sure you don’t.
If I were to guess, I’d say you would feel cranky, emotional (can laugh, cry, or scream at any given moment), unmotivated, weak, and super tired all day long. This is exactly how your child feels when they don’t get their naps. There is so much learning that happens during those first few years that it’s imperative that children are awake and ready/able to learn. They’re ability to learn and retain information goes way down when they’re tired. And, what they are learning throughout the day will be lost without sleep. Information and short-term memories are transferred to our long-term memory when we are sleeping! So remember, naps aren’t luxuries, they’re necessities!
So there you have it…3 reasons why naps are important. I know it can be a pain sometimes to be home when your kids need their naps, but it’s worth it. Naps on-the-go are okay once in awhile, but you really want to try to be home for at least one nap a day. Imagine you fell asleep on the couch for a nap. Now imagine you fell asleep in your bed with your nice dark shades/curtains. Which one do you think is going to be easier for you to get the best quality and length of sleep? Your bed, of course!
This is the same as your baby taking a 20min car ride nap vs a 1hr 20min crib nap. That 20min nap will be enough to give them a little boost of energy, but not enough to keep them happily going for another few hours until next nap or bedtime. They’re either going to need more naps that day or they will just be tired, cranky, and clingy until they can sleep again. So my advice is to do what you can to let naps happen at home in their cribs.
And I don’t know about you, but I LOVED it when my kids napped! What parent do you know that couldn’t use a break or two during the day to nap, get things done, or just sit down and sneak a piece of chocolate?! So don’t push your child to give up their naps before they’re ready. But, when they are ready, take a good look at their schedule, which will need to be adjusted to make up for the lost nap. Schedules change often when they’re little, and dropping naps is definitely one of the times that this will happen.
*If you need help with schedule changes or nap issues, I can help! You can schedule a free 15min phone call, so I can access your sleep needs. You can always check out my full package sleep services or sleep courses as well, if naps aren’t your only issue!