Daytime naps might last just a few short hours, but they can affect all twenty-four hours of a child’s day. Naps can improve a child’s mood and reduce fussiness, crying, whining, and tantrums. Studies show that children who nap daily get sick less often, grow taller, and are less likely to be obese when they grow up. Naps enhance attention span and brain development. Naps can also help make up for any shortage in nighttime sleep. Even a one hour shortage in overall sleep hours can have a negative effect on a child – compromising alertness and brain function, and increasing fussiness and fatigue.
There are many ideas for helping a child to take a nap, but the best idea in the world may not work for you if the solution doesn’t address the reason that your child won’t nap. There is not just one reason that babies and young children refuse to nap – there are hundreds of different reasons. Before you decide on a solution you need to understand your child’s motivation. Once you figure out the cause of your child’s “nonnappingness” you can put together a plan to overcome her resistance. Here are a few typical reasons kids won’t nap – and suggestions to solve each problem:
Problem: Has outgrown the current nap schedule
Solutions: Think about any changes in your child’s life, growth or development. Has he learned to crawl, begun to eat solid food or started daycare? Any change can also affect sleep patterns. Watch your child for signs of tiredness between naps and adjust your schedule to meet his new needs.
Problem: Nap schedule doesn’t match your child’s biological clock
Solutions: Naptime, bedtime, mealtime, exposure to light and darkness, and activity all can affect your child’s biological clock. Look at your child’s schedule to be sure these things occur at reasonable times every day. The improper order of things (such as active, brightly lit playtime just before bed) can affect your child’s rhythm.
Problem: Nap schedule isn’t consistent from day to day
Solutions: If on weekdays nap times, bedtime and wakeup time are specific, but on weekends they’re hit and miss, then your child will be functioning with a constant bout of jetlag. Other inconsistencies can also affect this, such as when your child naps at a certain time at daycare, but a different time at home, or if he takes a nice long nap on days when you are at home but takes a short one in the car (or skips a nap entirely) when you are on the go. Set up a possible nap schedule for your child and do your best to stay within a half hour of the nap times that you have set up.
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