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Naps and Sleep

Expert Q&A

By

Updated August 11, 2008

Q. My 3 year 9 month old twins have stopped napping, unless their in the car. They seem very tired and now are having night terrors. We are also moving to a new house. Therefore, I recognize two factors that may be contributing to their sleep disturbances. I would like to know how much sleep do they need at this age? Thank you in advance for your assistance. Maureen, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A. Naps are important for younger kids. Most children take two naps until they are about 18 months old, and then don't give up their last nap until they are 4 to 6 years old.

Three year olds need about 12 hours of sleep a day. This includes about 11 hours overnight and a 1 to 1 1/2 hour nap during the day.

Although some children at this age are already giving up their daytime nap, especially if they sleep a good 12 hours at night, the fact that they easily fall asleep in the car likely means that they still need a nap.

Night terrors are also more likely when a child is overtired, so they are probably more a consequence of not getting enough sleep and not really a factor contributing to it.

Napping Problems

It is not uncommon to have napping problems. The time when toddlers go from two naps to one nap and when preschoolers finally give up their nap can be especially tough. Until these children get used to their new sleep schedule, they can become a little sleep deprived.

Remember that just because your kids don't want to take a nap, that doesn't mean that they don't still need one.

To help your kids nap well, it may help to:

  • have a consistent schedule, with naps at the same time each day, even if you have to adjust your day around your child's naps
  • put your child down for naps using the same routine each day
  • have a quite time before the nap begins so that your child isn't too wound up from playing
  • consider making your nap a little earlier or a little later in the day, keeping in mind that 1pm is a fairly typical afternoon nap time at this age
  • put your kids down for a quiet time after lunch, even if they don't fall asleep and take a nap
With twins, you may have the extra problem that they keep each other up, for example by playing instead of settling down for a nap. If this is part of the problem, you might try separating them if they are sleeping in the same room.

If nothing seems to work and they get overly tired and irritable by the end of the day, you might try an earlier bedtime.

Sleep

These books about sleep might also be helpful:
Related Video
Sleep Well During Pregnancy
How Much Sleep is Enough for Children?

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