If you insist on quiet time for a reluctant toddler, she'll usually fall asleep.

The Importance of a Toddler's Nap Time

by Marissa Meyer

Nap time being considered the new happy hour isn't just a clever play on words directed at new parents. Children younger than 4 years need naps to stay physically and mentally healthy, and caretakers often reap similar benefits when young children take naps. Toddlers who are learning to embrace the word "no" often appear to neither want nor need quiet time. Despite their reluctance, most toddlers don't get enough sleep without a daily nap.

Emotional Health

Toddlers between 30 and 36 months who miss naps are more anxious, have difficulty solving problems, and are more easily frustrated, according to a study conducted by the University of Colorado-Boulder. The study was based on the facial expressions of toddlers working on puzzles. Toddlers who missed naps responded to success less positively, were more easily distracted and were more frustrated when pieces wouldn't fit. Consistent sleep deprivation during early development can cause ongoing problems with emotional growth and concentration.

Reliable Schedules

Toddlers are wired to sleep for 10 to 13 hours in a 24-hour period. Work schedules and family obligations often make it impossible for toddlers to get adequate sleep at night, so some time must be reserved for daytime naps. As long as naps don't occur too late, they can improve the quality of nightly sleep. Toddlers who rest during the day are more likely to settle down for a scheduled bed time and are less likely to wake at night, according to KidsHealth. Naps also serve as a benchmark in the middle of a toddler's day, making it easier for him to fall into a routine, which will be helpful during school years.

Physical Health

Because naps are often necessary for toddlers to get enough sleep, going without naps can affect your child's physical well-being. Toddlers who consistently sleep less than 10 hours in a 24-hour period are at higher risk of becoming obese, struggling in school and having heart disease during adulthood. Lack of sleep can also damage a toddler's immune system, making her more likely to catch illnesses going around in a day care or in other public places.

Caretaker Breaks

Whether you're parenting or providing childcare, spending a day with a toddler is hard work. As with any other job, toddler caretakers need breaks so they can recharge. Improve both of your moods by keeping your focus sharp as you supervise and engage your charge. Nap time allows you to eat, exercise, socialize and catch up on housework. These activities promote your own health, and make your home or care facility a better environment for your toddler.

About the Author

Marissa Meyer has been writing professionally since 2004, with work published on websites such as Decoded Science and MomSquawk. She has also worked in the travel, beauty, home design and childcare fields. Meyer received dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in communication and political science from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Photo Credits

  • the girl sleeps image by Arkady Chubykin from Fotolia.com