Sleep: Making Naptime Easier
"But I don't want to take a nap!" Naps are important for your children to recharge and prevent irritable behavior caused by over-exhaustion. Their bodies are growing at rapid rates and they need plenty of sleep to keep up. But if you have a child who fights his naptime every day, you may be ready to give up.
However, KidsHealth says, "Well-rested kids are quicker to settle down at night than overtired ones. Overtired children are often "wired" and restless, unable to self-soothe at bedtime, and more likely to wake through the night."
How Much Sleep?
While each child is different, KidsHealth provides the following basic guidelines for naptime sleep:
Before the age of six months, your infant will need 16 to 20 hours of sleep a day. Newborns will sleep on and off throughout the day, waking every few hours to eat. But once they reach about four months, they will begin sleeping longer hours at night and will take two or three naps in the daytime, averaging about three to five hours total per day. Babies ages 6 to 12 months will typically sleep about 11 hours at night, with about 3 or 4 hours for napping (usually divided into two naps).
Toddlers to age 3 will sleep between 10 and 13 hours at night, and should take an early afternoon nap of 1 to 3 hours. Young toddlers may still prefer two shorter naps. At this age, be sure to schedule naps so that they do not occur too closely to bedtime. Preschoolers ages 3 to 5, will sleep 10 to 12 hours at night, with a short afternoon nap.
About the age of 5, your child may not need a daily nap, although he may need an earlier bedtime if he seems consistently tired. However, as your child continues growing, he may need the occasional nap in the afternoon. Just make sure the nap is not too long or too close to bedtime, or he will have difficulty falling asleep at night.
For older children who do not necessarily need a daily nap, here are some cues that a nap or earlier bedtime might be needed: daytime sleepiness, irritable or hyperactive behavior, difficulty waking in the morning, and inability to focus.
Guidelines for Naptime
Two basic principles will help with naptime: routine and scheduling. Keep naps to a set routine every day. Even a difference of an hour can change behavior and nighttime sleeping. You'll also want to schedule naps according to your child's own needs.
When your infant begins rubbing his eyes or becoming irritable, put him to bed and let him fall asleep on his own. Play soft music, keep the room dark, and consider a very short naptime story to relax your child.
As your child grows older, he may begin fighting naptime. Some young children still want to nap, but others are reluctant to miss out on anything by sleeping. While you can't force a child to sleep, you can establish a "rest time." KidsHealth suggests, "Let your child read books or play quietly in his or her room. Parents are often surprised by how quickly quiet time can lead to sleep time -- but even if it doesn't, at least your child is getting some much-needed rest. If your child has given up daytime naps, consider adjusting to an earlier bedtime."
Adjust the nap schedule according to your child's needs. Make sure the nap is early enough that it does not interfere with bedtime. You may even need to wake him a little earlier in the morning so he is ready for a nap. Or you may need to shorten the naptime. But try to keep a daily nap schedule, even if it is a shortened one, through the preschool years. Experiment with schedules until your child is consistently well-rested.
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