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NAN: Sleep Routines for Preschoolers

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The amount of sleep a preschooler needs can vary significantly from child to child. On average, preschoolers require 10 to 13 hours of sleep per 24 hour period. While some preschoolers give up their naps by age 3, others will continue to take daily naps throughout their preschool years. Preschoolers who have late afternoon meltdowns if they miss a nap, fall asleep easily at nap time and still go to bed fairly easily even when they nap likely still require an afternoon snooze.

Preschoolers who require a nap shouldn’t be discouraged from sleeping, though some studies have indicated that those who nap during the day may sleep less at night. Researches with the Queensland University of Technology in Australia discovered that after age 2, children who take naps during the day went to bed later and their quality of sleep was diminished after evaluating data from more than two dozen studies. Their findings were published in the Archives of Childhood Disease.

Although some research indicates that children who nap during the day may sleep less at night, many parents and nannies find that some children continue to need daily naps well past age two. Once children truly outgrow the need for naps, many nannies and families institute a quiet time during the time frame when nap time previously occurred.

The bedtime routine for preschoolers should remain consistent and there should be a clear time set for lights out. The ideal bedtime for preschoolers is between 7 pm and 8 pm. Some parents may prefer their children to sleep late and may opt for a later bedtime so that the child sleeps later in the morning. As long as the bedtime is consistent and the child gets adequate sleep, this shouldn’t be problematic.

During the preschool years a child may experience night terrors. Night terrors are different than nightmares and usually happen early in the night during the deepest stages of sleep. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “while night terrors can last as long as 45 minutes, most are much shorter. Most children fall right back to sleep after a night terror because they actually have not been awake. Unlike a nightmare, a child will not remember a night terror.”

A child having a night terror may scream, talk without making much sense, sit up or push away the caretaker who tries to comfort him. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises not to wake the child during a night terror.

While night terrors can be scary to watch, they are typically not a cause for concern, though nannies should discuss any concerns with the parents and the parents with the child’s doctor. If night terrors are persistent, the child’s doctor should be consulted.

Michelle LaRoweNAN: Sleep Routines for Preschoolers