Why You Shouldn’t Phase Your Big Kids Out of Midday Naps, Study Says

Kids who nap a few times a week are not only happier, but they perform a lot better in school too.
ByStephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
Jun 2019
girl napping with stuffed animal
Photo: iStock

Naps are a regular part of youngsters’ days. As they get older, parents typically try to wean them off of this ritual, but a new study says it’s not only okay, but good for them to take a few catnaps during the week.

Children who nap 30 to 60 minutes midday at least three times a week are happier, have more self-control and grit and showcase fewer behavioral problems, according to the new research. Researchers also say the kids have higher IQs and excel academically.

The study analyzed nearly 3,000 fourth, fifth and sixth grade children who were between the ages of 10 and 12 years old. Researchers collected data about napping frequency and duration at those ages, as well as outcome data when they reached sixth grade, including psychological measures like grit and happiness, and physical measures like body mass index and glucose levels. Teachers were also asked to provide behavioral and academic information about the students.

“Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6 percent increase in academic performance in grade 6,” says co-author on the paper Adrian Raine, neurocriminologist at the University of Pennsylvania. “How many kids at school would not want their scores to go up by 7.6 points out of 100?”

Daytime drowsiness affects up to 20 percent of all children, explains lead author on the study Jianghong Liu, a University of Pennsylvania associate professor of nursing and public health. Making matters worse, the negative effects of poor sleep habits usually focus on preschool-aged and younger children. While in the US napping stops once kids get older, other countries, such as China, incorporate napping into day-to-day life from elementary school to middle school and even into adulthood.

“The midday nap is easily implemented, and it costs nothing," says Liu. "Not only will this help the kids, but it also takes away time for screen use, which is related to a lot of mixed outcomes.” Researchers hope the results will be used for future interventional work that focuses on adolescent sleepiness.

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