Many parents view their child's nap time as a benefit because it gives them a chance to get caught up with chores -- or simply relax. However, naps are extremely important to your toddler’s health and development as well. Important developmental changes occur in early childhood -- and your little one needs the proper amount of sleep to keep his development on track.
Amount of Sleep
Before 12 months of age, your child needs about 16 to 20 hours of sleep a day, which parents typically divide into 3-hour chunks to accommodate feeding needs. When your child reaches 12 months, and enters the toddler stage, his number of naps will change drastically. While there is no single answer for how much sleep every toddler needs, KidsHealth advises that most toddlers require about 10 to 13 hours of sleep during a 24-hour period.
Length of Naps
How long a toddler's nap last will vary depending on how much sleep she gets at night. According to the Cleveland Clinic, toddlers typically nap for up to 3 hours during the day. This is usually in the form of one long nap, but if your toddler naps for shorter lengths of time, she may require two naps during the day. Naps during the day do not typically affect a child’s nighttime sleep, but make sure your toddler isn’t napping too close to bedtime to ensure you don’t encounter problems. If you’re concerned that your toddler naps too long in the late afternoon and it's affecting her nighttime sleep, try to establish an earlier nap routine, by waking her earlier in the morning so you can make nap time earlier in the day.
Toddlers need their sleep to grow and develop, but sometimes napping becomes an issue. To ensure your toddler gets the sleep he needs, the Cleveland Clinic recommends you try to keep to a set, daily time for napping and establish a napping routine that allows him to wind down from the excitement of the day, just as you would at night. A story at naptime effectively calms down a toddler just as it does at bedtime. Keep your toddler’s nap location consistent as well. The bedroom is the most obvious place, but if your toddler settles better on the sofa or in your bed during the day, make sure this is the place he naps every day.
Identifying and Resolving Sleep Problems
According to KidsHealth, toddlers that aren’t getting enough sleep often show signs in their behavior. Many parents underestimate the amount of sleep their toddler needs because toddlers tend to go full-tilt no matter how tired they are. Look for signs of fatigue in your toddler’s behavior if you’re concerned. For example, a toddler that is sleep-deprived will yawn and tend to become cranky or irritable in the late afternoon. You may find that waking your toddler in the morning becomes a battle, or that your toddler is inattentive, hyper, impatient or aggressive at certain points in the day. If any of these signs are present in your toddler, he might need more sleep. Adjust your toddler’s sleep or nap schedule to allow more sleeping time. You might have to work at finding the right routine for several weeks before establishing one that works for your toddler. Talk to your doctor if fatigue remains an issue even if your toddler is getting the right amount of sleep.