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4 Reasons Naps are Crucial + Sample
Nap Schedules by Age

May 1    Written by Sophia Duhela

One mistake I see quite often is parents dropping their child’s nap too soon.

If you have a 2 year old, they should still be napping.

Heck, if you have a 3 year old, they should still be napping.

In fact, most 4 year olds and even some 5 year olds may still need a nap.

Hold onto your child’s nap as long as you can!
And don’t do it just because I said so – do it because it’s good for them!

In this post, I’m going to go over four reasons naps for so crucial during the early childhood years, as well as provide you with a few sample schedules by age so you know exactly how many naps your child might be needing and when…and when you know it may be time to actually drop the nap.

Daytime Sleep Affects Nighttime Sleep

Did you know that the quality of daytime sleep – naps – and nighttime sleep are very interdependent on each other?

If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “Sleep begets sleep,” you may know it to be true. Quality, consolidated naps during the day reduces the build up of adenosine (this build up of this hormone drives the body’s need to maintain homeostasis, resulting in a nap) and prevents a cyle of overtiredness caused by the buildup of cortisol (our wakeful, alert hormone…also the stress hormone if too much is built up) as the day goes on.

Taking naps resets the adenosine levels and your child is good to go again for a while. Younger babies build up this hormone more quickly, resulting in the need for more naps more frequently. As children get older, their awake time stamina increases and these periods of sleep become more consolidated and spread out.

If you’re noticing your child is a hot mess as you get later into the afternoon and evening hours, it may be because they’ve not gotten enough daytime sleep and their beginning to experience this overtiredness as a result of cortisol building up throughout the day.

Naps Prevent Overtiredness (and, consequently, night wakings!)

When there’s an excess of cortisol, it can result in more night wakings, making your little one sleep restlessly at night instead of restfully.

What can you do to combat this??

Offer naps early and often! Preventing overtiredness is key.

When quality sleep occurs during the day there is no cortisol to fight at bedtime. Melatonin can be released, allowing your child to fall asleep quickly and without struggle.

With no “extra” cortisol left in the body, your baby will be able to more easily connect sleep cycles and sleep peacefully.

Naps are Good for Brain Development

Not only do quality naps help with consolidated nighttime sleep, but they also help with promoting your child’s brain development and self-regulation skills!

Think about this: when you’re tired, you’re more easily agitated, annoyed, and probably less patient than when you’re well-rested, right??

It’s the same for our children, but they’re also lacking the skills and ability to emotionally regulate themselves, making it even more difficult to maintained a regulated state without letting emotions get out of hand.

Rebecca M.C. Spencer, a professor of psychology and brain sciences at the University of Massuchusetts, Amherst, shares, “childcare providers will describe the napless child as giddy, grumpy, or wavering between these opposing states. This response to nap deprivation is consistent with studies of sleep deprivation in adults. As is the common perception, when sleep deprived, adults are emotionally dysregulated. Napless children may also seem inattentive, a feeling shared by sleep deprived adults. As adults, we also recognize that when we do sleep, we are less forgetful and more reasonable with our emotions.”

In her study, “The Role of Naps in Memory and Executive Functioning in Early Childhood,” she concludes that “As in adults (e.g., Mednick, Nakayama, & Stickgold, 2003; Milner & Cote, 2009), naps provide a broad benefit to cognition in early childhood. Multiple forms of memory are better the next day if a nap followed learning. These naps also benefit executive functions including attention and emotional regulation.”

Naps Can Improve Mood

So, not only do our children benefit from improved learning and memory, but they’re also better able to regulate their emotions!

You may find that your little one wakes with a smile on their face after a good nap and is cheerful in demeanor. If they’re waking and they’re cranky, they’re still tired.

If a child is moody and irritable, a nap can work wonders as a solution.

Sample Nap Schedules by Age

Now that we’ve gone through the importance of your child’s napping, let’s get into some sample nap schedules that you may find helpful.

Before we dive in, though, it’s important to note that what I’m about to share may or may not work for your child, as each child is different. I’m also sharing these samples by age, but you’ll see that I have 6/7/8 or 14/15 listen because it’s common for most children to have a certain number of naps at or around this age, but these times can also be a time of transition.

If you find that you need help specific to your child, that’s what I do when working with families one-on-one, and I’d love to help you, too.

0 - 3 Months

Newborns sleep a lot. They NEED to sleep every 45-60 minutes or so to maintain homeostasis, so make sure you’re offering naps frequently to mitigate overtiredness.

Here’s what a day might look like for a 1 month old:

8:00 wake up
Feeding
Awake Time
9:00-10:00 nap 1
Feeding
Awake Time
10:45-11:30 nap 2
Feeding
Awake Time
1:00-3:00 nap 3
Feeding
Awake Time
4:00-4:30 nap 4
Feeding
Awake Time
5:45-7:00 nap 5
Feeding
Awake Time
8:30 bedtime

4 - 6 / 7 / 8 Months

By 4 months old, most babies are taking 3 or 4 naps per day. Below are a few samples:

4 Month Old:

6:00 wake up
Feeding
Awake Time
8:00-9:30 nap 1
Feeding
Awake Time
11:30-12:30 nap 2
Feeding
Awake Time
2:30-3:00 nap 3
Feeding
Awake Time
4:00-4:45 nap 4
Feeding
Awake Time
7:00 bedtime

6 Month Old:

6:30 wake up
Feeding
Awake Time
8:30-10:00 nap 1
Feeding
Awake Time
12:00-1:00 nap 2
Feeding
Awake Time
3:30-5:00 nap 3
Feeding
Awake Time
7:30 bedtime

6 / 7 / 8 - 14 / 15 Months

Most children will be ready for a 2-nap schedule between 6 and 9 months.

Here’s a sample 2-nap schedule:

7:00 wake up
Feeding
Awake Time
9:30-11:00 nap 1
Feeding
Awake Time
2:00-4:00 nap 2
Feeding
Awake Time
7:15 bedtime

14 / 15 Months - 4 / 5 Years

The range for dropping from 2 naps to 1 is 12-18 months, with the average age of readiness being 14-15 months. Some children will continue to need a nap in the middle of the day through age 5.

18 Months:

7:00 wake up
Feeding
Awake Time
12:00-2:45 nap
Feeding
Awake Time
7:00 bedtime

3 Years:

7:00 wake up
Feeding
Awake Time
1:00-3:00 nap
Feeding
Awake Time
7:30 bedtime

5 Years:

7:00 wake up
Feeding
Awake Time
1:00-2:30 nap
Feeding
Awake Time
7:30 bedtime

I hope these samples give you an idea of what’s normal for a child around the ages and stages of your child. And, as previously mentioned, I’d love to help you figure out your little one’s sleep if it’s something you’re struggling with! You can book a free discovery call with me here.

Kind words from clients