Why Short Cat-Naps Are Not Good Enough
Guaranteed Gentle Ways to Solve All Your Naptime Problems
By Elizabeth Pantley
If your child’s naps are shorter than an hour and a half in length, you may have wondered if these brief naps provide enough rest for your little one. You migh t suspect that these catnaps aren’t meeting your child’s sleep needs – and you would be right. The science of sleep explains why a short nap takes the edge off, but doesn’t offer the same physical and mental nourishment that a longer nap provides.
It takes between 90 and 120 minutes for your child to move through one entire sleep cycle, resulting in a Perfect Nap. It has been discovered that each stage of sleep brings a different benefit to the sleeper. Imagine, if you will, magic gifts that are awarded at each new stage of sleep:
Stage 1 - Very light sleep
Lasts 5 to 15 minutes
Prepares body for sleep
Reduces feelings of sleepiness
Stage 2 - Light to moderate sleep
Lasts up 15 minutes
Improves motor skills
Slightly reduces homeostatic sleep pressure
Stage 3 - Deep sleep
Lasts up to 15 minutes
Release of growth hormone
Repair of bones, tissues and muscles
Fortification of immune system
Releases bottled up stress
Reduces homeostatic sleep pressure
Stage 4 – Deepest sleep
Lasts up to 15 minutes
Same benefits as Stage 3, but enhanced
Next Stage – Dreaming
Lasts up to 9 to 30 minutes
Transfers short-term memory into long-term memory
Secures new learning
Enhances brain connections
Sharpens visual and perceptual skills
Reduces homeostatic sleep pressure (The biological process that creates fatigue and irritability.)
For as long as your child sleeps
Repeat all of the above stages in cycles
In order for your child to receive all of these wonderful gifts he must sleep long enough to pass at least once through each stage of sleep. Longer naps will encompass additional sleep cycles and provide a continuous presentation of gifts.
Newborn babies have unique cycles that slowly mature over time. A newborn sleep cycle is about 40 to 60 minutes long, and an infant enters dream sleep quickly, skipping several sleep stages. Infants need several sleep cycles to receive their full allotment of gifts. If your infant is sleeping only 40-60 minutes at naptime it is an indication that your baby is waking between cycles instead of returning to sleep on his own. We’ll cover a plethora of ideas to help your baby learn to go back to sleep without your intervention.
Now you can clearly see why a short nap doesn’t provide your baby or young child the best benefits of napping. You can also see why a mini-nap can fool you into thinking it is enough – since the very first five to fifteen minutes reduce feelings of sleepiness and bring that whoosh of second-wind energy that dissipates quickly, resulting is fussiness, crying, crankiness, tantrums and whining.
From The No-Cry Nap Solution: Guaranteed Gentle Ways to Solve All Your Naptime
Problems by Elizabeth Pantley (McGraw-Hill, January 2009).
Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Nap Solution (McGraw-Hill, 2009).
About the Author
Parenting educator, Elizabeth Pantley, is the president of Better
Beginnings, Inc., a family resource and education company.
She is a regular radio show guest and often quoted as a parenting
expert in magazines such as Parents, Parenting, Working Mother,
Woman's Day, Good Housekeeping and Redbook.
She publishes a newsletter, Parent Tips, that is distributed in
schools nationwide, and is the author of Kid Cooperation: How to Stop
Yelling, Nagging and Pleading, Get Kids to Cooperate, The No-Cry Nap Solution: Guaranteed Gentle Ways to Solve All Your Naptime Problems.
Other Articles By Elizabeth Pantley