Although many young children continue to take at least one nap daily as older toddlers and preschoolers, new research published in Archives of Disease in Childhood suggests that daytime napping results in poorer sleep quality in young children after age 2.
Sleep recommendations for young children include allowing toddlers to take a nap during the day as a means of promoting good health. Sleep patterns typically shift to the nighttime hours between birth and age 5, with daytime napping eventually ceasing altogether. However, previous research suggests that daytime napping could affect the overall sleep patterns and circadian rhythms of a child.
For the present study, researchers at Queensland University of Technology in Australia sought to assess evidence regarding the effects of napping on measures of child development and health using a systematic review of twenty-six published, original research articles.
Explain the researchers about the reason for investigating the effects of napping on young children, “The duration and quality of sleep have immediate, ongoing and long-term consequences for child development and health.”
Upon reviewing the twenty-six studies that met criteria for inclusion in the review, the researchers found evidence that daytime napping beyond age 2 resulted in a longer amount of time required for a child to get to sleep at night and shorter overall durations of nighttime sleep.
However, due to the differences between the studies analyzed for the review, the researchers found making a connection between napping and any detrimental impact on behavior, development, and overall health difficult.
Explain the researchers, “Extant literature covers a range of outcomes with few using standard, comparable measures. The quality of studies reflects the relatively new focus of research on the independent effects of napping.”
The findings, however, reveal more about the importance of sleep during early childhood. Conclude the researchers:
“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 the night.”
Future studies should investigate the complexities of sleep transition patterns during the initial years of childhood alongside the influence of environmental factors in the home.
Napping, development and health from 0 to 5 years: a systematic review: http://adc.bmj.com/content/early/2015/01/29/archdischild-2014-307241
Napping linked to reduced sleep quality for young children: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/289633.php
Naptime for a Very Tired Little Girl: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jennyleesilver/4960825329/