Parenting - June 2015

Why Short Cat-Naps Are Not Good Enough

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from The No-Cry Discipline Solution (McGraw-Hill 2007) 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 might 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 to 15 minutes

• Increases alertness          
• Slightly reduces homeostatic sleep pressure
• Stabilizes mood
• Improves motor skills

STAGE 3 - Deep Sleep 
Lasts up to 15 minutes

Strengthens memory              
• Regulates appetite
Releases bottled up stress        
• Restores energy
Release of growth hormone
Repair of bones, tissues and muscles
• Fortification of immune system
• Reduces homeostatic sleep pressure

STAGE 4 – Deepest Sleep 
Lasts up to 15 minutes

Release of growth hormone
• 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
Organizes thoughts                      
• Secures new learning
• Enhances brain connections          
• Relieves stress
• Boosts energy                               
• Inspires creativity
• Processes emotions
• Sharpens visual and perceptual skills
• Reduces homeostatic sleep pressure 
   (The biological process that creates fatigue and irritability.)

Longer Naps For as long as your child sleeps

• Repeats 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. 

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.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Discipline Solution (McGraw-Hill 2007) by Elizabeth Pantley

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