Saturday, March 31, 2012

Is It Nap Time Yet? Seven Great Reasons For Taking A Nap.

Let Sleeping Children LieLet Sleeping Children Lie (Photo credit: stewickie)In the kindergarten world a daily nap is just an everyday part of the schedule.  Just as some adults make use of naps while others do not, so children vary in their napping habits.  Visit any kindergarten class during nap time and you will see some children restlessly twisting  and turning on their mats, covertly making animal noises under their breath or poking their neighbor while other children are oblivious to the world around them and snoring away.  Some children can barely make it through the day until nap time and others groan (maybe inwardly) when the time arrives that they have to still the inner engines for  a few minutes of peace and quiet.

My own children were exact opposites in terms of napping ability as well.  My older daughter gave up naps totally at one year old, right about the time I quit work to stay home with her.  Ever a restless and light sleeper any way, she arose early and went to bed with great protest late, never to slow down or let her head touch a pillow in between.  My second daughter, was practically never awake for the first year of her life.  She would wake up to eat and be changed, take a long morning nap, wake up for lunch take an even longer afternoon nap and still go to sleep without any problem early in the evening.  I used to say that she slept so much and so soundly that I was afraid I would forget she was even in the house as I went about my daily chores. If anything interfered with her scheduled nap, she would just fall asleep whenever and wherever.  I have numerous pictures of her dosing off midway through a meal, her head drifting downward into a plate of food.

There has been a lot of research on the benefits of naps and the number of famous adults who considered naps an important part of their daily routine.  We all know that there a different stages of sleep but recent research indicates that if you plan your nap based on the sleep stages and what you are trying to accomplish with a nap, you can reap huge benefits.   What are the benefits of napping?  Here's seven reasons for children and adults to take that afternoon siesta:

  1. It increases alertness.  Just a twenty minute nap has been proven to increase alertness by 100%, more than 200mg of caffeine or a bout of exercise.
  2. It improves learning and memory especially memory that is involved in working on complex tasks that require focus.  Schedule that lesson on learning the ABCs either early in the morning OR after the nap time.
  3. It improves memory retention since this is when recent memories are transferred to the neocortex where long term memories are kept.  Napping after learning the ABCs will help cement that lesson in the long term memory.
  4. It prevents burnout and reverses information overload.  Feeling overwhelmed?  Taking a nap actually improves performance on tasks.
  5. It heightens senses and creativity.  This happens through improving sensory perception and freeing up ideas that can be woven together into new creative thought patterns.  Plan that art project right after nap time.
  6. It improves health.  Not enough sleep creates an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. Sleep  releases the growth hormone which is the antidote to cortisol.
  7. It improves your mood.  Sleep bathes the brain in the neurotransmitter serotonin which regulates mood, sleep and appetite thus creating a more positive outlook. That's why children get so cranky when they miss their nap time and why they are so much more pleasant afterwards.
After reading the research on naps, I'm so convinced that naps are healthy, I'm planning to work one into my schedule today.  This is research that simply confirms what I've wanted to do all along but now gives me a great reason for following through.  What about you?  Do you take naps?  Do your children?


  1. I could use a nap! I definitely believe in the benefit of napping. I wish my son would still nap. He just turned four and hasn't napped since he was two!

  2. Oh, Jessica... I feel your pain:) Thanks for the comment!

  3. ah a nap! my kids were similar... except the older one she did not miss the opportunity to sleep. The younger one opposed sleep and then about a year ago it changed, now the older one protest going to bed and the younger goes down with ease.

    As far as I go... hmm. I prefer to be awake, I do agree that a rest is important for the mind and body. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I must admit, I don't nap very often, but always feel so much better when I do take one. Luckily, I sleep well at night. :)
    And, neither of my kids were the greatest of nappers. When they took one, though, I usually did, too, just to get my energy back.
    Great, informative post, Lynne!

  5. @mommetime and @Martha--I'm not much of a napper either but reading all this research on napping makes me wonder if I'm missing something!