Daytime Naps – 3 Reasons Not To Miss Them
It’s unrealistic to expect to stay home for every nap, every day. I get it; life is busy. There’s that playdate or the Mommy and Baby class, a doctor’s appointment or you’re celebrating a family birthday. It’s not the end of the world if your child has to miss a nap, but if you make a habit of it, your child could become very overtired and start to show signs of sleep deprivation. In addition to not getting the sleep they need, here are 3 reasons why you might not want to miss your child’s nap.
When a child misses much needed daytime naps, they become overtired and the body reacts by increasing the production of cortisol.
1. The more tired a child is, the worse they will sleep at night
It’s a common sleep myth that the more tired a child is, the better they will sleep at night. Many people think that if a child doesn’t sleep during the day and is extra tired, they will crash at bedtime and sleep more soundly throughout the night. In fact, the opposite is true. When a child misses much needed daytime naps, they become overtired and the body reacts by increasing the production of cortisol. This stress related hormone actually makes children more alert and can make it much more difficult to fall asleep. Cortisol can remain in the body for several hours which is why you might see more night wakings and early morning wake-ups.
If you don’t keep them well-rested, the fatigue will cause an increase in cortisol production which could make your child fight their nap even more the next day.
2. A missed nap results in the “witching hour”
When a child misses their daytime naps, they often get cranky and easily frustrated towards the end of the day. They experience that “witching hour” and there is nothing you can do to calm them or make them happy. When you see these signs, they are really telling you that they are tired and need to go to bed. If your child misses a nap, regardless of the reason, offer them an earlier bedtime. If you don’t keep them well-rested, the fatigue will cause an increase in cortisol production which could make your child fight their nap even more the next day. This can turn into a vicious cycle, so its important to keep them well rested with an earlier bedtime.
Without them children become very drowsy and it becomes difficult to retain new information.
3. Not all sleep is created equal
Naps are physically and mentally restorative to children and they are important for learning and cognitive development. Without them children become very drowsy and it becomes difficult to retain new information. As well as being important for cognitive development, not all naps are created equal. There is more REM sleep in the morning nap which is linked to emotional restoration, while the afternoon nap has more non-REM sleep which is linked to physical restoration. This is a good reason why we don’t want to drop their morning nap too soon.
Remember, sleep begets sleep. The better rested your child is, the better they will sleep overall. If your child is well-rested and getting adequate sleep during the day, it will be easier for them to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
Jenn Kelner is a mother of three children, including twins, and a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant at BabyZzz. Just as every family is unique, Jenn supports many different sleep methods and works directly with families to design a solution that will help them become well-rested, happy families.