Moms or other caregivers relish a young child’s naptime because it offers an opportunity for some quality my-time. However, a new study by researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia have found that a daily nap may impact the toddler’s nighttime sleep.
The study, titled Napping, development and health from 0-5 years: a systematic review accessed data from 26 Australian and international studies of children under the age of five years and found overwhelming evidence of unnecessary napping. The result was poorer nighttime sleep quality. Lead author Karen Thorpe, PhD, a professor of psychology at QUT’s Faculty of Health and Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) noted that it was widely accepted within the childcare sector that napping in preschool children promoted growth. However, their study revealed that the practice a negative impact on night sleep patterns of children aged three and older.
Specifically, the data showed that napping beyond the age of two lengthens the amount of time it takes for a child to fall asleep. In addition, the study examined the development and health outcomes of children’s sleep in regard to cognition, behavior, salivary cortisol, obesity, and accidents. The most consistent finding was an association between daytime napping and poorer quality of night sleep among children. Dr. Thorpe noted that currently, the majority of child and day care centers had scheduled nap times.
Joint author Sally Staton, PhD examined sleep practices in early childhood education and care settings in QUT. She noted that Australia legislation required that childcare services make appropriate provision for sleep and rest; however, there was currently little evidence to guide that practice. Her research revealed that, in the absence of guidance, childcare services employ a large range of practices from no sleep time at all to a mandatory sleep time up to 2.5 hours. She stressed that there was significant variation in how much daytime sleep an individual child will require and it is important that parents and childcare staff work together to support children’s sleep during this time.
The authors concluded that their study suggested that beyond the age of 2 years, napping is linked to later night sleep onset as well as both reduced sleep quality and duration. However, the evidence regarding behavior, health, and cognition was less clear. They stressed that a need exists for more systematic studies that use stronger designs. They recommended that preschool children whose parent or other caregiver who take their child to a physician for sleep problems should have their napping patterns evaluated.