Toddlers who miss out on afternoon naps 'at risk of lifelong mental health problems'
Nap time: Toddlers need to sleep during the day to help them cope with the stresses of daily life
Toddlers who miss out on afternoon naps are more stressed, unhappy and at greater risk of lifelong mental health problems, new research claims.
Findings reveal that young kids who miss just one daytime nap become more anxious and less interested in the world around them. They were also less excited by happy events and found the slightest stressful event hard to cope with.
U.S. researchers say this is because missing naps ‘taxes the way toddlers express different feelings.’
And long-term sleep deprivation could even lead to ‘lifelong, mood-related problems,’ they warn.
The team, from the University of Colorado Boulder measured the sleep patterns of toddlers aged two to three. Kids wore a special device which measured how much they slept, with their parents also keeping a sleep log.
Study author Professor Monique LeBourgeois filmed the toddlers’ facial expressions as they completed two jigsaws on one day where they’d had their usual nap, and on another when they’d been deprived of it.
Results, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, showed that tired toddlers who successfully completed the first puzzle were a third (34 per cent) less positive in their emotional responses than when they’d been well-rested.
And on being given another deliberately unsolveable puzzle the team noticed tired toddlers were a third more stressed by it than when they’d enjoyed their usual nap.
Toddlers who had missed out on a nap were also more than a third (39 per cent) less curious about the unsolveable puzzle than when they were well rested.
Prof LeBourgeois warned that ‘Confusion is not bad,’ adding that it was necessary to help kids learn from their mistakes.
But he said: 'A sleepy child in a classroom or
nursery environment may not be able to engage with others and benefit
from positive interactions.'
He added: 'This study shows insufficient sleep in the form of missing a nap taxes the way toddlers express different feelings, and, over time, may shape their developing emotional brains and put them at risk for lifelong, mood-related problems.
'Just like good nutrition, adequate sleep is a basic need.'