Naps are essential to the physical and neurological development of children. Every parent or guardian knows that a missed nap spells irritability, fussiness, lowered concentration, and decreased attention. Putting a baby down for a snooze is sometimes difficult enough, but then try telling a post-lunch, mid-coloring toddler that it is time for a nap, and you are almost frustrated before you begin.
What follows are some tips for easing the naptime struggle, and some information on why they are so important for developing bodies and minds.
Naps Facilitate Easier Learning
The amount of neural repair and development during a short nap for those at the beginning of their lives is truly amazing. A recent study showed that the benefits of a nap longer than 30 minutes, within 4 hours of learning something, helps children in the 6-12 month age range retain their memories of new behaviors across a 4-hour and 24-hour delay. This is a strong indication that not only are naps helpful but that they are integral in the formation of long term memories.
Naps Encourage Physical Growth
In a study published by the National Institutes of Health, a relationship between naps and growth spurts was demonstrated, and it showed that in early life, there was a 43% increase in the chance for a growth spurt for every additional nap the child takes. Babies that nap often are not only heavier, but longer and the data suggests that not only are the grow spurts likely to occur during a nap, but that they may be triggered by them, or otherwise intrinsically linked.
Daytime Naps Can Facilitate Better Nocturnal Sleep
While this may seem like a contradiction to some, they have likely never had to deal with an overtired child. Children that skip naps are often stressed and irritable. They are so tired, but they fight dozing off at every turn. This can turn into a late afternoon or evening nap, which then impacts bedtime significantly, and can foster a snowball effect, sometimes lasting for days.
How Often Should My Child Nap?
Here is a quick rundown. Bear in mind that naps should be at least an hour long.
- Newborn to 3 months: 4-5 naps daily
- 3-6 months: 3-4 naps daily
- 6-11 months: 2-3 naps daily
- 12 months and over: 1 nap
Why Is My Newborn Struggling To Nap?
There are a few reasons why your newborn struggles to nap regularly. They could be over-stimulated or hungry, or they may still be developing a regular sleep cycle.
They Need To Develop A Circadian Rhythm
- It can take 12 weeks or more of being exposed to a normal day/night cycles to develop a strong, hormone-based circadian rhythm. To best help this rhythm develop, make sure you do the following:
- Make sure they get exposed to daylight during morning and afternoon. Not necessarily outside, but curtains open so natural light comes in.
- Include the baby in family activities and socialization. This interaction will help set the timing of their body clock, and it will help tire them out.
- Try to avoid exposure to bright artificial light, like LED lighting, in the evening. There is significant research that shows that the blue wavelengths found in “white” LED light can have a detrimental effect on melatonin production and REM sleep. In children and adults.
A Hungry Baby Is A Fussy Baby
Just like many adults, feeding your baby at the onset of the evening can help satiate them and induce sleepiness. Just make sure to give them ample time to begin digestion, nothing is more uncomfortable than trying to get to sleep immediately after a big meal.
A little too much interaction in the hours before bed can hamper the onset of sleep. This is a tricky one since it does not take much to get a baby’s alertness level boosted via some short animated interactions. So if it is a few hours before bedtime, try to slow things down, and interact more peacefully.
Effective Sleep Environments
The environment of your baby’s room can make a big difference in their ability to sleep. The main things to consider are noise, temperature, and the amount of light in their room.
It is generally understood that a cooler room facilitates easier and higher-quality sleep. Having the child’s sleeping room at a temperature between 68-72°F. Ensure the temperature is not too high, this has been shown a correlation with SIDS.
Another crucial factor, especially once they are getting into a circadian rhythm is keeping the room dark. This will send signals to the child’s brain that it is night and time to ramp down and sleep.
It should go without saying that a quiet room is more conducive to sleep. Avoid any noisy toys or mobiles before setting your child down for sleep. White noise generators can help, but only if they are on very softly, and preferably on a timer, so they shut off and do not become a necessary part of the sleep routine.
Sleep should be an activity that the whole family prepares for. With that in mind, try to arrange for a pre-sleep routine that is calming and quiet. Include some low lighting, some soft white noise, and cooler temperatures, and ensure the baby is not overstimulated beforehand.
Sleep Help for Singapore Babies and Parents
If you’re struggling to get your baby to take naps or sleep through the night, contact Petite Dreamers. Louise is a licensed, experienced sleep consultant who has helped hundreds of babies (and their parents!) get the rest they need. Contact Louise today for a free discovery call.