Infants and young children need lots of sleep, but when and how much they sleep shifts with age. By age two, children transition to getting most of their sleep at night, instead of in a series of naps. Researchers from Queensland University of Technology in Australia investigated the link between napping and sleep quality. Their study finds that, for children two and older, napping is associated with poor sleep quality. The results suggest that, for optimal sleep quality, children aged two and over should do most of their sleeping at night.
The researchers wanted to understand how napping affects young children’s night-time sleep quality, behavior, cognition, and physical health. They reviewed a pool 781 studies related to the napping practices of children five and under. Then, they whittled the pool down to the 26 most relevant studies. Finally, the researchers organized the data and evaluated trends.
The findings revealed that napping has a negative impact on the overall amount of night-time sleep for children aged two and up. Evidence also indicated that, for children over age two, napping lengthens sleep onset (the length of time it takes to fall asleep at night).
There were no clear relationships between napping and behavior, development, or overall health. This may be because the relatively large age range of children surveyed.
The researchers explain that “The impact of night sleep on children’s development and health is increasingly documented, but to date there is not sufficient evidence to indicate the value of prolonging napping, whether at home or in childcare contexts, once sleep has consolidated into night.” They call for more, high quality research into how sleep patterns transition during early childhood.
This research is published in Archives of Disease in Childhood.
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