Blog – Sleeping

Sleep.

We all know that a good night's sleep is crucial for a healthy mind in a healthy body. We know this because we can all feel what a bad night's sleep does to us. One night of poor sleep and yawning through the day is still possible, but if the sleep deprivation takes on chronic forms... Well, you will soon notice it...

For young children, sleeping well - at night and during the day - is very important for their development. Young children need their sleep to process the impressions during the day, to recharge, to rest and to grow. For example, it is not a myth that children grow while sleeping. During sleep they produce growth hormone. 

Sleep is therefore essential for physical health and also plays a crucial role in mental functions such as memory and emotion regulation. During sleep, all environmental stimuli are switched off so that the central nervous system can rest. This has a positive influence on memory, the immune system and emotional management. Children who sleep poorly or too little, eat less well, are more likely to be angry, sad, restless and irritable. Recognizable? That's what you call overstimulation. The central nervous system does not get enough rest to process all the stimuli. Overstimulation leads to poor sleep and so you end up in a negative vicious circle. In other words, poor sleep leads to even worse sleep; One night of poor sleep may make it easier for you to fall asleep the next day, but chronic poor sleep makes it more difficult to fall asleep and the quality and/or duration of your sleep deteriorates. 

As parents, we all know what happens when a child “gets over her sleep”. Drama through and through. Yet it is not always easy to know whether your child is getting enough sleep. Particularly during toddlerhood - the age at which the afternoon nap becomes increasingly shorter - it is sometimes difficult to make that assessment. Especially because toddlers (read: mini teenagers) also have an opinion about whether or not they sleep. This is a way to exert their influence. They become aware of the fact that they have a choice. They would like to make that choice themselves. Especially in the afternoon… 

I regularly hear from parents that their preschooler no longer wants to sleep at lunchtime, but... that their child is highly emotional at the end of the afternoon, becomes hyperactive or simply falls asleep during the evening meal. All these scenarios have undesirable consequences for nighttime sleep. Either a child is overstimulated and has to process all the stimuli at the end of the day before going to sleep, or a child has fallen asleep too late in the afternoon and therefore does not want to go to bed until later. In both cases, the child stays up later, which can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.

But… how much sleep does a young child exactly need? When do children stop taking an afternoon nap? And - very important - what can you do if your toddler really doesn't want to sleep at lunch?

From the age of 1.5, most children take one afternoon nap after lunch, which lasts between 1 and 3 hours (depending on the duration of the night's sleep). At night, toddlers usually sleep between 11 and 12 hours. On average, toddler age children sleep between 12 and 14 hours in total and go to bed between 7 and 8 pm. Of course, this also depends on the time the alarm goes off in the morning. If you have to get up at 5:00 am to get to work/school/daycare on time, your bedtime in the evening will of course be earlier or the afternoon nap will be longer. It is not an exact science, as you read there is some leeway. The total sleep duration is leading.

Preschoolers (from 4 years old) need an average of 10 to 12 hours of sleep. This is often in one long sleep during the night. However, up to the age of 5, a toddler may still need an afternoon nap. The afternoon naps gradually become shorter until a kind of 'power nap' remains.

The age at which your child stops taking an afternoon nap varies. Usually a toddler aged 2-3 years still needs 1 afternoon nap per day of approximately 1.5 hours. This is necessary to process all the stimuli of the morning and to gain energy for the rest of the day. For example, afternoon naps help young children to learn better, absorb new information and retrieve it from memory. Numerous scientific studies have shown that young children perform better when they sleep at lunchtime. Significantly better. On standardized tests they achieve up to 10% better results. That's no small feat. 

It may be that your toddler still needs her afternoon nap, but does not want to sleep. Which can. No problem. After all, you can also rest without sleeping... Create a situation in which the stimuli are reduced to a minimum. For example, by letting your toddler lie in bed with the curtains closed, read to them, let them look at books on the couch or let them 'snoezelen' or play with a cuddly toy. You can agree with a toddler that they do not have to sleep, but that you do expect them to lie down for a while and rest. This often also helps you break through the resistance of 'not wanting to sleep'. During these moments of rest, a child can in any case process the stimuli of the morning to prevent it from becoming overstimulated or falling asleep later in the day and the quality and/or duration of night sleep suffers. In most cases, children still fall asleep during these moments of rest.

Children who are really ready to give up their afternoon nap generally have a good and stable mood during the day, are cheerful for most of the day and have enough energy to be awake and active from morning to evening. If your child falls asleep during a short car ride, becomes cranky or hyperactive at the end of the afternoon or gets into intense emotions because bananas are bent - or something similar - this is a sign that he/she is too tired and still needed some time to rest.

One day is not the same as another day. It may therefore be that your aging toddler really needs sleep one day and that a moment of rest is sufficient on another day. Take it day by day and keep a close eye on the signals of fatigue and overstimulation. 

However, saying goodbye to the afternoon nap too quickly because your toddler no longer wants it (age) Two means “No!” or because it is difficult to fall asleep in the evening is not a good idea. 

If you have any questions about sleeping or sleep problems, you can contact me at pedagoog@kleintjezuid.nl. I'd like to think along with you.