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No benefit of naps after age two

Wednesday February 18th, 2015

Toddlers who nap in the daytime may have a reduced quality of sleep at night, researchers warn today.

"The duration and quality of sleep have immediate, ongoing and long-term consequences for child development and health," says Professor Karen Thorpe of the Queensland University of Technology, Australia.

She adds that encouraging napping in preschool children has been suggested as a health promoting strategy.

Her team assessed the evidence on napping and development/health by reviewing 26 studies involving children up to the age of five.

"The findings regarding cognition, behaviour and health impacts were inconsistent," the team reports, "probably because of variation in age and habitual napping status of the samples."

However there was a consistent finding that daytime napping led to later onset, shorter duration and poorer quality of night-time sleep after the age of two years.

In the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood today, the authors state: "The evidence regarding behaviour, health and cognition is uncertain." But they add: "In preschool children presenting with sleep problems clinicians should investigate napping patterns."

The team point out that children's sleep patterns in early childhood can "disrupt family functioning and parent well-being". It is therefore important to bear in mind the possible negative impact of napping beyond age two on sleep onset and quality.

"Our review identifies the need for more extensive and higher quality studies of the effects of napping on multiple outcomes, including learning, behaviour and health," they write. But they conclude: "Existing evidence does not support the practice of prolonging napping behaviour once sleep consolidates into the night."

Thorpe, K. et al. Napping, development and health from 0 to 5 years: a systematic review. Archives of Disease in Childhood 18 February 2015 doi10.1136/archdischild-2014-307241 [abstract]

Tags: Australia | Child Health

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