Do Children Really Need To Take Naps?

Long naps aren't the healthiest habit for adults. Ironically, they can leave you feeling sleepy, and this effect may bleed into the next day or two if the nap makes it hard for you to fall asleep that night (per Sleep Foundation). According to the European Society of Cardiology, a regular habit of long naps is even associated with heart disease and death.

However, we know that not everything that is true for adults is necessarily true for children. After all, children need a lot more sleep than adults because their bodies are still developing. Children between the ages of 15 and 24 months typically need to sleep for around 12 hours per day, including a daily nap of 1-2 hours. Most children between the ages of 24 and 36 months still benefit from daily napping. These naps improve both mood and attention span (per St. Louis Children's Hospital).

This is why young children need naps (and older children might not)

According to Dr. Oskar Jenni (via The New York Times), young children need naps not only because their bodies need a lot of sleep for optimal development, but also because their brains are not very tolerant of staying awake for long periods of time.

However, this changes as children grow older. 60% of 4-year-olds still take naps, but this number falls to 30% among 5-year-olds and 10% among 6-year-olds. Most children stop napping by the time they are 7, and the Sleep Foundation recommends consulting your pediatrician if your children still naps regularly at that age, just to rule out any potential sleep conditions.

St. Louis Children's Hospital notes that it is often helpful to do away with naps after the age of 5 so that a child can sleep better at night, but it's important not to make this transition too early. Most children will make this transition on their own, but if they don't, the Sleep Foundation notes that a child may be ready to stop napping if they wake up early or struggle to fall asleep at night or during nap time.