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3 Reasons Why Naps Are Important

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!

Demi from Pennsylvania (5mo old)

My baby Vinny sleeps so much better for naps now! He was a complete swing addict but with patience and consistency he weaned off the swing completely and now does all naps and night sleep in his crib! Ronee knows the inns and outs of sleep! Highly recommend!

Are Schedules Really That Important?

Parents often ask me if having a good schedule is really that important, and the answer is yes! Children thrive on schedules! Whether you have a baby, toddler, preschooler, or school aged child, they all appreciate knowing what comes next in their day. If you have an older child that can talk well, then you know that they will ask several times a day what is next. Where are we going next? What time are we leaving? How long until dinner? If you have a predictable schedule, they will go from asking you what’s next to telling YOU what’s next.

When children are younger that predictability is what gives them a secure feeling. For instance, they are secure in the fact that they know that after diaper changes come feedings. They will often start rooting or sticking their tongue out during diaper changes because they’re excited about being nursed or given a bottle afterwards. The diaper changes send a cue to your child’s mind and body to get read for that next feeding. The same thing is true for sleep. Having a good bedtime routine in place will allow your child to become ready for bed.

If you have the same consistent routine each night before bed, you might notice that your child will start yawning or getting really sleepy during your routine each night. This will help your child fall asleep more easily for bed, and the same is true for naps. Having a short nap time routine will allow your child to realize that once again sleep is near. You want to use the EAT-PLAY-SLEEP (EPS) schedule throughout the day for your baby.

If you’re unfamiliar with EPS, it means that babies should be fed AFTER they wake up and not before. I know this is counter-intuitive to what we parents tend to do in the first few weeks, but this is what will ensure your baby is going to sleep independently vs having baby fed to sleep as a prop. After 6 weeks of age, I recommend changing over to EPS so that baby can start to get on a good schedule. So if you have an infant your daytime schedule would look something like this:

  • Baby wakes in the morning, is changed, and then fed
  • Baby plays or is awake for awhile (length of time depends on child’s age)
  • Baby is put into crib sleepy but awake without being fed again beforehand
  • Baby wakes up from nap, is changed, and then fed…process starts all over

If you have a toddler or preschooler, your schedule might look something like this:

  • 7am – wake up
  • 7:30am – breakfast
  • 9:30am – snack
  • 11:30 – lunch
  • 12:30pm – nap
  • 3pm – snack
  • 5pm – dinner
  • 6:30pm – bedtime routine starts
  • 7pm – bedtime

If this is your child’s schedule every day, then you will notice that he/she will start to get sleepy at nap/bed times and get hungry at the same times each day. This predictability allows your child to feel in control of his/her day and to know what to expect. It helps their body maintain a good circadian rhythm and over tiredness for sleep, and eating on a fairly predictable schedule of every few hours prevents energy dips, metabolism slowdowns, crankiness, and cravings.

Having a good schedule for your child means that you as the parent can plan your day accordingly. Whenever possible, try to plan to be home during your child’s naps. Doing so will allow your child to get the best daytime sleep possible, which will in turn help with their night time sleep. Since sleep begets sleep, it’s in your best interest in preserve those naps whenever you can! Of course there will be times when you can’t be home for your child’s nap, but just do what you can to make it happen most days.

At this time of year, with school going back into session, I’m often asked by parents of multiple young children what they should do when they have to run their preschooler to school several times a week during their youngest child’s nap time. In these cases, the best scenario would be that you try to arrange your little one’s naps around the times you have to leave the house. If that’s not possible, then try to at least get one (or more) naps taken at home. Usually the drop off/pick up times only interfere with one nap, so if you have a baby who’s taking two naps a day you’ll want to get at least one nap taken at home and the other one will need to be “on the go”. Since most babies enjoy falling asleep in their car seat, stroller, or carrier/wrap, use this to your advantage and let one nap happen there while transporting your other child.

While you’re never going to be able to be 100% consistent with your schedule and routine every single day, you can do your best to be consistent on the days that you’re home. Don’t panic if one day you weren’t able to keep your child on schedule for naps or bedtime. It’s ok…life happens! Just return to normal the next day, and expect that your child’s next 24hrs might be affected by that short nap, skipped nap, late bedtime, etc.

 

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Did you know that I always include a custom daytime schedule and bedtime routine with every sleep package I offer? Often that schedule can be the difference between the program working quickly and perfectly and not working well and lingering on for weeks. If you are having problems with your child’s sleep or their schedule/routine, contact me today for your free 15min phone assessment!