Dr Richard C. Woolfson
Your child’s sleep needs change as she grows. By the time she is three or four, you aren’t sure if she needs an afternoon nap. You may discover that a few hours of sleep during the day keeps her wide awake at night; you are ready for a well-earned rest when darkness falls and yet she is still full of beans.
The situation is more confusing if your child is taken care of by a carer who who believes that she has to get her head down by the middle of the afternoon. Then you are left to pick up the pieces later on at night.
Spot The Difference
It is importance to recognise the difference between “like” and “need”, when it comes to afternoon naps. Here are signs that your three-year would like an afternoon nap but she doesn’t actually need one:
1. When she is told to rest in the afternoon, she eventually falls asleep for anything between ten minutes and a couple of hours.
2. She tells yous he feels much better after sleeping during the day, but you can’t spot much difference between her pre-sleep and post-sleep behaviour.
3. At night, she is wide awake for a long time after she has climbed into bed; she complains to you that she doesn’t feel tired.
Here are signs that your three-year-old really does need an afternoon nap:
1. She is tearful, irritable, droopy-eyed and uncooperative by the afternoon, and you can see hir getting more tired.
2. When she wakes she is in a far better mood that she was before his nap, she has much more energy and is much more pleasant to be with.
3. At night, she climbs into bed compliantly, and proceeds to falls asleep very quickly despite her rest earlier in the day.
If you think your child has outgrown her afternoon nap and can happily survive without any more sleep until bedtime in the evening, then she certainly doesn’t need one. The danger is that if you continue with the practice you build up problems at the end of the day when you are desperate for sleep but she can’t fall asleep and you all end up angry with each other.
Replacing The Nap
To help your child adjust to a day that is not marked by an afternoon sleep, replace the sleep with an activity that forces her to rest – this could be colouring-in, or watching a television programme. Speak to your carer to ensure your child’s mid-week and week-end sleeping patterns are the same. Advise her that you would like your child to go without a sleep during the day and suggest a quiet activity for her in the afternoon instead. Within a couple of weeks you’ll forget her head ever hit the pillow during the day.
(Photo: Vera Kuttelvaserova Stuchelova/123RF.com)