Naptime advantages of establishing designated sleep times. Kids

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Last updated: December 26, 2019

Naptime and toddlers go hand in hand: Those late morning and early afternoon snoozes are all a part of early childhood. For many years, naptime has been a regular part of the early childhood education curriculum. The benefit of scheduled naptime in the classroom setting, however, has been a hot topic for quite some time. While some research highlights the cognitive benefits of napping, other reporting indicates there are no clear advantages of establishing designated sleep times.

 Kids health and sleeping habitsSleep is essential at any age, especially during early childhood when adequate rest is important for growth and development. The younger the child, the more sleep they need. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the guidelines for needed sleep are based on 24 hour periods and include naps. As such, if a toddler is a great sleeper and gets enough hours in at night, they may only need to take small naps during the day. However, if another child doesn’t sleep as long throughout the night, a longer snooze in the afternoon is common.Provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the standard for toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2 is 11 to 14 hours within that 24-hour period. For preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 5, that number adjusts to 10 to 13 hours. Regardless of the breakdown of hours, it’s important for parents to stick to a regular sleep routine and schedule for their little ones.

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In order to grow and develop, children need lots of sleep.As Kids Health explained, an afternoon nap is generally common among preschoolers, although, getting some little ones to close their eyes is not always easy. This is especially true in a classroom setting with distractions and other children nearby. In these scenarios, early childhood educators should encourage quiet activities instead, such as resting or reading a book. Since there is no set guideline for napping in ECE settings across the nation, many states create their own regulations – the majority of which are quite relaxed. In most cases, a period of “quiet time” is advised. And by the age of 5, most children will have outgrown naps. The benefits of naps for preschoolersThose in favor of continuing naptime in the classroom include researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

For the past five years, neuroscientist Rebecca Spencer and her team have been studying the impact that naps have on preschoolers and their performance within the classroom, reported The Boston Globe. As of now, the scientists can confirm that REM sleep achieved during naps can help early learners with tasks involving memorization, such as putting on and zipping up their coat.”Napping has been shown to help preschoolers with memory tasks.””There is rich sleep in these naps and it is important sleep, the kind that can convey a benefit to various cognitive functions,” Spencer said in the statement. “It’s important to declarative learning, the kind that you need to absorb educational materials, and it helps with memory needed to learn movement sequences.”While the team has yet to study the relation between well-rested students and emotional behavior, they have a hypothesis that’s most likely in line with parents and early childhood educators around the world: a lack of naptime means cranky kids. Upcoming observation conducted within the early childhood education setting will confirm whether or not policies around naptime help children learn and process emotions.

At present, the team believes that naps are in fact beneficial.As The Boston Globe reported, Spencer and her team have now been awarded a grant of $2.64 million from the National Institutes of Health to extend their research.The downside of naptimeOn the other side of the fence are researchers from the Queensland University of Technology School of Psychology and Counseling in Australia.

In a 2015 review of 26 studies surrounding naptime in children age 5 and under, the team led by Karen Thorpe and Sally Staton found no evidence that mandating naps has a benefit on the health and well-being of preschoolers, reported CBS News.In fact, the review discovered that there were even negative effects of napping during the day in children over the age of 2. Those who napped more during the day were less likely to get a quality night’s sleep and have trouble falling asleep in the first place.

“This rather exhaustive analysis of the research literature suggests that naps may not be as important for preschoolers as we think and may even have some adverse consequences,” said Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York. “These investigators have highlighted how little we truly know about the value – from a medical and developmental perspective – of having preschoolers nap during the day.”If a child has naturally outgrown naps, do not force them.

Another key takeaway from the report, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, was that age is not entirely significant when it comes to napping standards. As CBS News explained, the researchers concluded that there is no definitive age that napping should come to an end. Rather, napping needs should be evaluated on a child by child basis.

Naps should cease when toddlers have naturally outgrown them, according to Thorpe and Staton. Tips for naptime in the classroomFor early childhood educators that include naptime in their daily schedule, there are several tips that can help make that time of day smooth and stress-free. Pre-K Pages advised making the transition to naptime gradually by moving toward quieter, low-energy activities right beforehand. Reading a book, dimming the lights, and putting on soft, soothing music can help bring down the energy levels of your little learners. You can have students help set up their own sleeping mats as well.The source noted the importance of having a plan for the “non-nappers,” whether it be on their sleeping mats or cots or quietly at a table. Consider puzzles, drawing, or other activities that won’t disturb the others.

Finally, it’s important to slowly transition out of naptime, just as you would to begin.

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