Rest is necessary for development which is why getting enough sleep is important, most especially for children. Researchers found out, however, that napping in toddlers beyond two years old may actually be bad for them as it affects their ability to sleep at night.
Led by Karen Thorpe from the Queensland University of Technology's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and Faculty of Health, researchers examined 26 studies carried out in Australia and internationally involving children under five years old to determine the effects of unnecessary napping. According to their findings, children aged three and up don't benefit from afternoon naps because it disrupts sleep patterns at night, lengthening the time it takes for children to fall asleep while shortening actual sleep time.
Maybe afternoon naps are proving disadvantageous because by the time children reach two years old they are already getting most the rest they need from sleeping at night.
In the study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, Thorpe and colleagues also investigated the role sleep plays in child development by factoring in health outcomes, behavior, cognition and obesity. Even instances of accidents were assessed in relation to napping patterns in children.
"The evidence for napping and its impact on behavior, health and development of a child is less clear," said Thorpe.
Majority of daycare centers schedule sleep times as it has been widely acknowledged that napping can promote growth in pre-school children. In Australia, for instance, there is legislation in place requiring childcare services to make provisions for rest and sleep. However, there is little evidence that guides this practice. Without clear guidance, childcare centers enforce varying standards for rest and sleep, with some offering sleep time of up to 2.5 hours.
"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," said the researchers.
According to Sally Staton, a co-author for the study, parents and childcare centers must work together in addressing the sleep needs of a child, recognizing that every child is different and will have different requirements from each other.
"In preschool children presenting with sleep problems clinicians should investigate napping patterns," suggested the researchers.
Simon Smith, Catherine Haden, Cassandra Pattinson and Emily Sawyer also contributed to the study.