The End of the Nap

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When Myrna Moss’s youngest child was three-and-a-half, he suddenly cut out his two- to three-hour afternoon nap cold turkey, but then could barely stay awake through supper.

“I had to put him to bed an hour earlier at 7 p.m., then he slept a solid 12 hours,” says Myrna, the parent program co-ordinator at The Treehouse Family Resource Centre in Deer Lake, N.L.

She is a mother of five children ranging in age from 16 to 33, and has had plenty of experience in dealing with the challenges of no more naps, both on her children and on herself. “It shifts everything,” she says. “Be prepared for an adjustment phase as your child reduces the number of afternoon naps until they’re gone and his body gets used to the new routine.” In other words, don’t be surprised if your child goes two days without a nap and gets cranky in the late afternoon, then falls asleep in the car.

Myrna has the following advice on how to ease into a nap-less schedule:

Know when to say goodbye.

If your daughter is consistently fidgety and restless at naptime, doesn’t have meltdowns when she misses her nap or, when she does nap, has a hard time going to sleep at her regular bedtime, it’s time to say farewell to the afternoon snooze. When that will happen depends on the child.

“One of my sons still napped in the afternoon when he was in kindergarten, while my 15-month-old granddaughter only naps 20 minutes a day,” says Myrna.

Typically, though, children stop napping completely at age three or four. Don’t feel guilty. It’s normal to feel some resentment when naptime ends. “I felt that way at first when each of my children stopped napping, then it went away,” says Myrna.

After all, those two to three hours in the afternoon when your child sleeps are your time to shower, clean the house, call a friend – maybe even take a nap yourself. Look on the bright side. Your child is becoming more independent, which means you can do more together – either outside the house or at home at that time of day. For example, a three- or four-year-old can help you fold laundry or empty the dishwasher. You’re building your relationship with your child when you spend time together that way.

Schedule daily downtime.

Most preschools have regular afternoon “quiet time”. Even if the kids don’t sleep, they can play quietly and settle down before they go home. It’s wise to implement this at home too. It will help prevent cranky meltdowns before or during suppertime.

Make sleep a priority.

Experts agree that while every child’s sleep pattern is different, physical and mental development takes place when kids sleep. Try to ensure that your child is getting enough nighttime sleep after napping ends, even if it means putting her to bed a bit earlier and dealing with having her wake earlier (see sidebar above for how much sleep toddlers need).

If your child isn’t getting the textbook recommended amount of sleep but seems happy, healthy and well rested, she’s probably fine. If you have any questions about your child’s sleep needs, check with your healthcare provider.

How much is enough?

1 to 3 years:

12 to 14 hours per day. As your child moves toward 18 to 21 months, he’ll likely lose his morning nap.

While toddlers need up to 14 hours of sleep each day, they generally get about 10.

Most children from about 21 to 36 months of age still need one daily nap, which may range from one to three-and a- half hours long. They typically go to bed between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and wake between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.

3 to 6 years:

10 to 12 hours per day. Children in this age range usually go to bed between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and wake between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., just as they did when they were younger.

At three, most are still napping, while at five, most are not. Naps gradually become shorter, too.

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