London – Children who take an afternoon nap over the age of two don’t get such good quality sleep, say researchers.

Length and quality of sleep is linked to child health and development, and parents and carers have been encouraged to let toddlers take a daytime nap.

However, the researchers wanted to find out what impact napping has on a child’s night-time sleep quality – as well as behaviour, cognition and physical health.

They reviewed the available published evidence for napping in children up to five. They pooled data from 26 studies and analysed the findings which were published online in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

They found consistent, but not particularly high quality, evidence indicating that napping beyond the age of two increases the amount of time it takes for a child to fall asleep and shortens the overall amount of night-time sleep. However, the impact of napping on behaviour and development is less clear-cut.

By the time a child is two-years-old, they are generally getting most of their sleep at night.

The authors suggest that the quality of studies reflects the relatively new focus of research on the effects of napping, prompting them to call for further research to look at the complexities of sleep transition patterns in early childhood.

One of the researchers said: 'The impact of night sleep on children's development and health is increasingly documented, but to date there is not sufficient evidence to indicate the value of prolonging napping, whether at home or in childcare contexts, once sleep has consolidated into night.'

They suggest that in pre-school children with sleep problems it may be worth looking at whether they take regular daytime naps.

Daily Mail