Sleep is important for kids of any age, and when you have babies or small children it is especially important. A study published by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that babies and children under the age of 5 who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight or obese later in life.

To parents, especially new ones, naps can seem like a miracle. Naps provide much needed time for your baby’s brain to develop and they also keep your kids from getting cranky- all while giving you time to regain your sanity. So how much sleep does your little one actually need, and how can you help them get enough sleep?

How much sleep is required?

It can be tricky to know how much sleep is too much when it comes to napping. You don’t want to let your child oversleep and ruin their bedtime, but at the same time children who don’t get the right nap quality or quantity will be overtired at bedtime which can lead to waking up during the night and waking up early.

Most children require a nap until they are at least 3 or 4 years old, and babies need as many as 2 to 4 naps a day, according to sleep coach Stephanie Baker. Sleep needs vary by age, and lessen as the child grows and changes.

According to BayCare, infants from birth to 6 months require around 16 to 20 total hours of sleep per day, with newborns typically sleep for 3 to 4 hour stretches between meals. As they get closer to 6 months, babies will begin to establish sleep rhythms with longer sleep periods of 10-11 hours of sleep at night.

Babies 6 to 12 months old will sleep around 11 hours at night with 2 naps totaling 3 or 4 hours, according to Toddlers between 1 and 3 years old will require about 10 – 13 hours of sleep including at least one afternoon nap between 1 and 3 hours. Preschoolers need 10-12 hours of sleep per night, and usually stop taking afternoon naps at home around this age. School aged kids also need 10-12 hours of sleep- including high school kids.

Naptime Routines

Having a routine for naptime can be one of the easiest ways to avoid a headache- literally! Centra Care reports that changes in sleep patterns can cause migraines, so it is important to make and maintain a sleep schedule.

Make sure that your child is napping around the same time every day. If you have a newborn, watch for signs of sleepiness like when they start to rub their eyes. Put them down for a nap before they are asleep so that they can get used to the routine of going to sleep.

Toddlers may put up a fight when it comes to nap time- they don’t want to miss a thing no matter how exhausted they are, but it is still important to maintain a routine with them. suggests that you give your child quiet time at the same time every day even if they refuse to nap. For example, have them play in their room quietly or read a book. This will give you the break that you need and usually it ends up making your child so sleepy that they end up falling asleep for a nap anyway.

If you feel your child’s naptime is starting to have negative effects on their nighttime sleep schedule, adjust their routine slightly. Have them take naps earlier in the afternoon or wake them sooner so that they can still go to bed on time. The most important thing, though, is to be consistent!

Quality over Quantity

Sometimes the quality of the sleep your child is getting during their nap is more important than the number of hours that they slept. The most effective and restorative naps do not involve any motion- so that nap they took in their car seat on the way home from the store is not as restful as a nap in their bed. It is the same with children napping in strollers or swings- they need at least an hour of sleep without motion.

BayCare suggests nursing your newborn and singing a song until they are fully asleep to help settle your baby and ready them for a more deep sleep. You should also try to keep your children away from sugar and carbohydrates around naptime, which can lead to a less restful sleep.

Remember, if your child is napping and sleeping normally but still seems tired or groggy, you should speak to your pediatrician as this might be a sign of sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.

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By Angela Ardolino of Tampa Bay Parenting,