It's a sad day when your three-year-old drops the nap. It's pretty much the only time a parent can have a complete thought. It may seem evil or self-serving to force a nap on a kid who is screaming "I'M NOT TIRED" as they reenact the "Purple Rain" video. After all, they are just little people who should find their own natural sleep rhythm.
I am not for strict sleep schedules or missing birthday parties because it "interferes with Seven's nap time." However, I have seen first hand how missing a nap can turn a sweet angel into Damien. There's more than a little research to back me up.
"Research suggests that physical and mental development takes place when kids sleep-both at night and during the day," says Daniel Lewin, Ph.D., director of pediatric behavioral sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.
Studies also find that kids who nap have longer attention spans and are less fussy than those who don't. Another good reason to take back control of the nap is that when kids rest during the day, they tend to sleep better and longer at night.
So, while nap time allows parents to check e-mails, it also helps kids to sleep better at night. And how long a child sleeps at night, even losing one hour, makes a difference in a how well a child learns the next day.
"Even minor changes in sleep can impair a school kid's learning, memory, attention, concentration," researcher Avi Sadeh, director of the Laboratory for Children's Sleep and Arousal Disorders at Tel Aviv University.
Almost all studies have shown that when people are deprived of sleep, their mood and ability to perform tests is a bit worse, according to researchers at Temple Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.
Kids may be genetically predisposed to give their parents a short or a long nap break. But there are some things you can do to push your kid to some sort of nap.
You should not let your child stay up for The Late Show. Staying up too late can keep them from taking a proper nap. And don't wait too long to put them down for nap.
The best time for a single nap is early afternoon. "Don't let your child sleep past three or four o'clock," parenting parenting adviser Jodi Mindell advises. "You should allow for at least four hours between the end of an afternoon nap and bedtime."
Also, it's not a good idea to rock or nurse a child to sleep at nap-time. "It may lead him to refuse to fall asleep on his own or to wake up as soon as the comforting stops", says Mindell, author of "Sleeping Through the Night." Her advice: "It's best to put your child down when he's awake," she says. "If he fusses, check on him and reassure him as often as you feel is necessary, but don't take him out of his crib. Eventually, he'll learn to fall asleep on his own."
There will come a time when your child is consistently fidgety and restless at nap-time, he doesn't have meltdowns in the late afternoon when he misses his nap or when he does nap, he has a hard time going to sleep at his regular bedtime, these are all signs your little one may be ready to drop the nap.
They should be in school by the time they are ready for a day of uninterrupted terror. Then they will be an underpaid, over-worked teacher's road block to checking e-mails.