August 17, 2018
Is naptime in schools still a thing?
In preschools, at least, it probably should be. A 2013 study found that preschoolers who napped performed better on cognitive assessments than those who did not. Many preschools and daycares still institute a “quiet rest time” for three and four-year-olds, but the once-ubiquitous kindergarten nap has fallen by the wayside in many classrooms. However, most studies suggest that kindergarten-age kids function just fine without a nap, as long as they’re getting enough sleep at night.
The infant period is marked by numerous daily naps, but the age at which kids give up napping can vary. To some parents’ disappointment, it can happen as early as age two–so much for that blissful period of peace and quiet. Other kids nap all the way through kindergarten. According to the National Sleep Foundation, toddlers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep per 24 hours, so the average two- to three-year old will need to get some of that via naps. However, preschoolers (kids ages three to five) typically need 10 to 13 hours, which a lot of youngsters are able to fulfill overnight. Children ages six to 13 need nine to 11 hours, so kids in this age bracket rarely nap.
If your four-year-old typically sleeps from 8pm until 7am, you might assume that 11 hours is adequate for the day. However, crankiness or other “tells” could indicate that while they might not want to take a nap, they definitely still need one. So how do you know if your child is ready to give up the daily nap? If they regularly skip naptime and seem no worse for the wear, or if forcing naptime on your child results in difficulty falling asleep at night, they are probably ready to stop napping altogether.
As a parent, caregiver, or teacher, you can’t force kids to go to sleep during “quiet rest time,” but you can create an environment that facilitates snoozing for the kids who might still need a daily nap. Nap mats for toddlers or other comfy sleeping surfaces ease the transition from napping in a bed at home–a lot of kids find it difficult to sleep on the floor. Keep the room dark and quiet, and consider a white noise machine or soothing music to play during rest time. Some teachers use aromatherapy, such as lavender candles, but this can trigger asthma and allergies, so it’s best not to use fragrance unless you’re positive that none of the kids have a reaction to it. The optimal nap time for four-year-olds in a school setting is around 45 minutes. Any longer and the kids who aren’t sleeping are going to get antsy. Plus, long naps can disrupt nightly sleep schedules.
If your child absolutely refuses to nap, whether at home or in school, don’t agonize over it. Each little body is different, and as long as the lack of naptime doesn’t seem to cause negative side effects, your child is probably just ready to stop. If your school mandates rest time, teach your child to be respectful of others by lying quietly until the teacher says it’s time to get up. If you’re concerned that inadequate sleep is causing cognitive or behavioral problems, talk to your pediatrician about a referral to a children’s sleep specialist.