Nap. It's a small word, but for most parents a hugely important one. Why? Sleep is a major requirement for good health, and for young kids to get enough of it, some daytime sleep is usually needed. Crucial physical and mental development occurs in early childhood, and naps provide much-needed downtime for growth and rejuvenation.
Naps also help keep kids from becoming overtired, which not only takes a toll on their moods but may also make it harder for them to fall asleep at night. And naptime gives parents a brief oasis during the day and time to tackle household chores or just unwind.
Sleep Needs by Age
There's no one-size-fits-all answer regarding how much daytime sleep kids need. It all depends on the age, the child, and the sleep total during a 24-hour period. For example, one toddler may sleep 13 hours at night with only some daytime catnapping, while another gets 9 hours at night but takes a solid 2-hour nap each afternoon.
Though sleep needs are highly individual, these age-by-age guidelines give an idea of average daily sleep requirements:
Birth to 6 months: Infants require about 16 to 20 total hours of sleep per day. Younger infants tend to sleep on and off around the clock, waking every 2 or 3 hours to eat. As they approach 4 months of age, sleep rhythms become more established. Most babies sleep 10 to 12 hours at night, usually with an interruption for feeding, and average 3 to 5 hours of sleep during the day (usually grouped into two or three naps).
6 to 12 months: Babies this age usually sleep about 11 hours at night, plus two daytime naps totaling 3 to 4 hours. At this age, most infants do not need to wake at night to feed, but may begin to experience separation anxiety, which can contribute to sleep disturbances.
Toddlers (1 to 3 years): Toddlers generally require 10 to 13 hours of sleep, including an afternoon nap of 1 to 3 hours. Young toddlers might still be taking two naps, but naps should not occur too close to bedtime, as they may make it harder for toddlers to fall asleep at night.
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): Preschoolers average about 10 to 12 hours at night, plus an afternoon nap. Most give up this nap by 5 years of age.
School-age (5 to 12 years): School-age kids need about 10 to 12 hours at night. Some 5-year-olds might still need a nap, and if a regular nap isn't possible, they might need an earlier bedtime.