The Grapevine

Should Children Nap? Napping After Age 2 Could Lead To Poorer Sleep Quality

Napping
Children should stop napping after the age of 2. Glenn Loos-Austin, CC by 2.0

The United States is currently in the middle of a significant public health issue that a lot of people fail to recognize: the Great Sleep Recession. Millions of Americans, particularly the younger generation, are not getting enough sleep and it is leading to some serious health concerns. A recent study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood has found that children who nap during the day after the age of 2 often suffer from poorer sleep quality later in life.

"The impact of night sleep on children's development and health is increasingly documented, but to date there is not sufficient evidence to indicate the value of prolonging napping, whether at home or in childcare contexts, once sleep has consolidated into night," the research team said in a statement.

Researchers set out to determine what impact napping has on young children’s health in terms of night-time sleep quality, behavior, cognition, and physical health. They gathered data using 26 studies that analyzed napping in children up to the age of 5. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to give children daytime naps, since total length and quality of sleep over a 24-hour period is associated with a child’s health and development. Generally, children start getting most of their sleep at night by the age of 2.

Results showed a link between napping after the age of 2 and poorer sleep quality in young children. Kids who napped beyond the age of 2 often took longer to fall asleep at night and spent less time sleeping throughout the night. However, the research team failed to uncover a link between napping and behavior, development, and overall heath due to age differences and napping patterns among children in the study. They recommend taking a look at regular daytime naps among young children with sleep problems.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans are considered monophasic sleepers, meaning our days are split into two distinct periods, one for sleep and one for being awake. Polyphasic sleepers, which represent over 85 percent of mammalian species, sleep for short periods throughout the day. Thanks to long work hours, caring for a newborn, and other responsibilities, naps have become a necessity for people looking up their performance throughout the day.

If you are going to nap, the experts recommend a short 20- to 30-minute nap to help improve mood, alertness, and performance. Napping past 20 to 30 minutes often leads to sleep inertia, or the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that follows waking up from a deep sleep. Napping for too long and napping later in the day can also throw off sleeping periods, especially the length and quality of nighttime sleep.

Source: Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2015. 

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