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The Importance of Naps for Toddlers

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Sleep is important for adults, but even more so for toddlers. The amount of sleep needed varies by age, and can also vary toddler to toddler. For example, infants require about 16 to 20 hours of sleep every day, while children aged 1 to 3 years need 10 to 13 hours of sleep, according to Seattle Children’s Hospital.

If a child is showing signs of insufficient sleeping, such as fatigue, irritability in the afternoon, and trouble focusing on schoolwork, then she may need more sleep than she is getting.

Naps provide several benefits to toddlers and their parents. For example, naps give the toddler’s body downtime for growth during a period of significant development, both physically and mentally, noted Seattle Children’s Hospital. They can also help with transition to bedtime and reducing daytime irritability. For parents, it gives them a period of time for themselves.

But missing naps can have negative effects. Parents may note that a child who misses her nap may be crankier in the afternoon. These negative mood consequences from missed naps may extend to later in life, according to a study conducted at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The study included toddlers who were between the ages of 30 months and 36 months. Researchers videotaped the toddlers on two separate days. On the first day, the toddlers had a normal 90 minute nap, and one hour later, they worked on pictures puzzles, some being solvable and others being unsolvable.

On the other day, the toddlers were deprived of their nap and worked on the puzzles one hour after they would regularly have their naps. The researchers then compared the emotional responses of the toddlers when they had napped and when they were nap-deprived.

Researchers found that when the toddlers did not have their normal 90 minute nap, they “had a 34 percent decrease in positive emotional responses after completing the solvable puzzles, a 31 percent increase in negative emotional responses when they were unable to complete the unsolvable puzzles, and a 39 percent decrease in the expression of confusion when they tried to complete the unsolvable puzzles,” according to HealthDay.

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