Nap-Deprived Tots May Be Missing Out on More than Sleep, Says New Study

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January 17, 2012

Daytime naps for your toddlers may be more important than you think! A new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder highlighted the importance of napping for toddlers which could be a wake-up call for parents.

The study looked at toddlers between two-and-a-half and three-year-olds who missed only a single daily nap. These toddlers experienced more anxiety, less joy or interest, and a poorer understanding of how to solve problems. CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Monique LeBourgeois, who led the study, said toddlers responded to exciting events less positively and responded more negatively to frustrating events.

"Many young children today are not getting enough sleep, and for toddlers, daytime naps are one way of making sure their ‘sleep tanks' are set to full each day," she said. "This study shows insufficient sleep in the form of missing a nap will tax the way toddlers express different feelings, and, over time, may shape their developing emotional brains and put them at risk for lifelong, mood-related problems."

LeBourgeois and her colleauges assessed the emotional expressions of healthy, nap-deprived toddlers one hour after their missed nap and tested them again another day following their normal nap. The study indicates the loss of a nap may make toddlers unable to take full advantage of exciting experiences and adapt to new frustrations.