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Toddlers Need Nap Time

Toddlers Need Nap Time

Many young children aren’t getting enough sleep. A recent study shows that when toddlers skip just one nap they become anxious, unhappy, and frustrated.

Ah, nap time! I’m not sure who looks forward to nap time more—parents or toddlers. But a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder shows that nap time for toddlers may be more important than previously believed.

Sleep deprivation has become the norm for many adults as we juggle many activities—commuting, working, learning, parenting, shopping, cooking, cleaning—the list goes on and on.

But assistant professor Monique LeBourgeois who led the study says, “Many young children today are not getting enough sleep, and for toddlers, daytime naps are one way of making sure their \’sleep tanks\’ are set to full each day.\”

Effects of missing one nap

Researchers found that toddlers aged two and a half to three years old who missed only one daily nap were more anxious and unhappy. They also showed less interest and had a more difficult time solving problems than their well-rested peers.

Researchers videotaped the toddlers’ faces while they put together “kid-friendly” picture puzzles. Children worked on two puzzles: one with all the pieces, the other had a wrong piece. No matter which puzzle the nap-deprived toddlers worked on, they exhibited strong reactions:

  • a 34 percent decrease in positive emotional responses when they successfully completed the first puzzle
  • a  31 percent increase in negative emotional reaction to the unsolvable puzzle

compared to toddlers who had napped.

\”Just like good nutrition, adequate sleep is a basic need that gives children the best chance of getting what is most important from the people and things they experience each day,\” said LeBourgeois.

Researchers speculated that lack of sleep could affect children’s ability to interact positively with others at home and at school. Tired children are more prone to temper tantrums and frustration.

Sleep schedule

Toddlers who follow a sleep schedule are able to reset their circadian rhythms each night. Ideally, they should get 12 to 14 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period. By the time they’re 18 months old, they should be down to one nap a day for one to three hours.

Sleep tips

  • Keep a consistent nap and bedtime schedule.
  • Keep the bedroom environment the same each night.
  • Set and communicate consistent limits.
  • Allow your child to have a stuffed animal or blanket to foster a feeling of security.


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