Nothing is more confusing or frustrating to parents than their child’s (or their own) lack of sleep. Kids that don’t get enough sleep can be prone to behavioral issues and general irritability. Getting the right amount of sleep is not just about avoiding cranky kids, though. Sleep is integral to your child’s growth and development. So, how do you know how much sleep is enough? Or if it’s time to let go of naptime altogether?
1. How Much Sleep Is Enough?
There’s no cookie-cutter nap requirement for children, but there are some age-based developmental standards. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 11-14 hours per day for children ages one to two years and 10-13 hours per day for children three to five years old. If your child isn’t getting that amount of sleep during the night, they might benefit from a regular nap. Key to knowing what works for your child is watching for new patterns.
2. Watch for Patterns
What the stats say: Babies usually develop sleep patterns that carry on into their toddler years. Then, out of the blue, naptime suddenly turns erratic, with your child going down easily for their Monday nap, but completely resisting sleep on Tuesday. Chances are, your child is going through a nap transition.
According to KidsHealth, at around 12-14 months children typically drop one of their two regular naps. At that point, one longer afternoon nap often becomes their new sleep routine. Expert factoids aside, it’s important to bear in mind transitioning out of a nap routine is not an overnight process.
Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby on the Block, recommends being flexible during this transition time. Adjustments will be required. If your toddler no longer naps in the afternoon, this will most likely lead to rescheduling afternoon activities, moving up the dinner hour, and setting an earlier bedtime.
Even with all the statistics and guidelines, only you will be able to tell what’s best for your child. One of the best indicators of adequate sleep is behavior. Signs to watch for:
• Do they seem tired or more irritable?
• Are they easily frustrated or having a difficult time focusing?
• Are they slow to wake in the morning?
• Have they developed new or aggressive behaviors since the nap change?
3. Don’t Give Up Too Quickly
A child who doesn’t want to take a nap is very different than a child that doesn’t need to take a nap. Just because your toddler resists a nap for a few days doesn’t necessarily mean their nap is gone for good. Make sure you’re giving them an adequate chance at a successful nap.
Some nap tips:
• Place them in an environment conducive to sleep. Dimly lit, quiet spaces are best.
• Take time getting them ready to sleep. Signaling through a story or quiet song can let your toddler know it’s time to rest.
• If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If your current sleep routine is working, keep at it!
The key ingredient to a successful nap transition is patience. Know that this ongoing process often involves one step forward and two steps back. Rest assured that like most childhood milestones, you and your child will move through it together, right on time.