Both parents and childcare workers like the idea of an afternoon nap for toddlers, but recent research found that kids two years of age and older may not benefit from napping in the afternoon.
According to Queensland University of Technology researchers, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that napping after two years of age is unnecessary.
“Beyond the age of two, if they continue to have a daytime nap it disrupts their night sleep, they have later sleep onset and also have poorer quality sleep,” says Karen Thorpe, a professor in development psychology at QUT, who reviewed 26 scientific studies on the topic.
In Australia, legislation requires childcare centers make “appropriate provision for sleep and rest”. However, in the absence of clear guidelines, such centers resort to a variety of practices.
While some centers schedule only “quiet time” with no sleep required, other centers strongly adhere to naps of up to 2.5 hours.
The study was published in BMJ’s Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Authors also included in the study the relationship between sleep and behavior, health, and development, but the topic needs further research, says Prof Thorpe.
“The studies were not conclusive, so we have to be careful at this point,” she says.
In adults, sleep disorder studies have shown that disrupted sleep affects memory, learning and how strong a person acts in emotional challenges, Prof Thorpe added.
“For young children that would be more exaggerated because they’re still learning their behaviour. You could extrapolate that if you’re disrupting night sleep you may be affecting all those things that the literature on night sleep is telling us. We don’t want to say that you should stop napping in childcare, but napping needs to be responsive to the child’s needs,” Prof Thorpe concluded.