Do Kids Over 2 Years Old Need Naps?

Recent research suggests that children over two years old not only do not require a nap during the day, but it may actually cause them to suffer from poorer sleep quality.

No more naps, you say?

As a mum of two exceptional sleepers I try not to be smug when it comes to sleep issues. My first born dropped his naps at two and a half years old and my second gave up on them at around 18 months. I never enforced nap times on them, I just let them sleep when they wanted to. BUT … and this is a big booty-sized but … I was enjoying at least 10 hours of uninterrupted toddler slumber most nights. If I was being subjected to middle of the night sleep disturbance, early wake-up calls, and toddlers getting out of bed over and over again with flimsy excuses, I know that I would be enforcing those daytime naps for just a touch of sanity!

So yeah, I get it. I get why a lot of parents will be scoffing at the mere notion that their two or three or even four year old who’s verging on a meltdown because they’re just too darn tired to make it through the mid-afternoon slump shouldn’t have a quick catnap! Heck, my teenager had a nap on the couch after two days back at school this summer!

Also, sometimes, parents REALLY need some downtime! And sometimes, WE also need a flippin’ nap!

Here’s the science

But research and science and all that jazz tells us otherwise, so here’s the crux of it.

A study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood n 2015, looked at the effects of napping on childhood development and health. They took data from over two dozen studies that anlaysed napping in kids aged up to five years old. Their conclusion was that for children aged two and over, napping could be associated with a) a delay in getting to sleep at night b) reduced sleep quality and c) less time sleeping through the night.

The effect that napping after age two had on behaviour, cognition and health was not clear and required more study.

Parents have been encouraged to give children daytime naps in order to help ‘recharge’ the batteries, so to speak. It also aids in kids getting a good amount of sleep in a 24 hour period. However, children start getting most of their sleep at night by the age of two years old.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans are ‘monophasic sleepers’. In other words, our day has two distinct periods – day for being awake and night for sleep. However, over 85% of mammals are polyphasic sleepers – one look at your cat lazing on the couch for their fifth nap of the day perfectly explains that one. They sleep for short periods throughout the day or night.

The best naps

The National Sleep Foundation (I bet they have scheduled nap breaks), recommends a short 10 to 20 minute nap, with 10 minutes being ideal to alleviate sleepiness and improve performance. Napping longer than half an hour can lead to sleep inertia – that feeling of disorientation after waking up from a deep sleep and not knowing what day it is, or who you are, or why you’re suddenly hungry.

Should my child nap?

By all means consider the research, but deciding whether or not your child needs a nap is not something you can put a definitive age on. It is down to parental preference, the individual circumstances, whether they will keep you up half the night if they do nap, or if they are about to turn batshit crazy without one. Every kid is different and you know your child best, so go with the flow and determine what works best for your own family. But remember that their nap patterns will change, so don’t be disappointed if your perfect routine gets thrown out the window before you’re ready for it.

her world julieWritten by Julie Scanlon

Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire. 

Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”


  1. Alezandra 03/03/2019 at 11:18 pm

    Read the article then suddenly the end bit just says that it all depends on the kid. 😛 I find naps are still good even beyond 3 especially when they need it. But some kids go to either day care or kindy for 5 days at a time and they don’t a chance. If adults need nap/s at times, I’m sure our little humans do too.

  2. SarahBlair 02/03/2019 at 10:10 pm

    All kids are different but I found if my youngest had a nap during the day I would have him up until 10 or 11 at night and that is not okay! Especially as he is a terrible sleeper, he turns 5 in about 2 weeks and I am still getting up at night with him up to 7 times a night!! He hasn’t slept through ever!!

  3. felicity beets 02/03/2019 at 7:46 pm

    All children seem to be different. It can be hard when you are driving and your child has a nap and you know that they are going to be up late because of it.

  4. kymmage 01/03/2019 at 7:23 am

    Yes I think it all depends on the child, but also shout out to all the mums and dads who really need a daytime nap too!! My eldest would not nap unless on you, so that was really difficult. And she woke so often in the night as well. My youngest would nap for hours and was and is a beautiful night time sleeper.

  5. MuddledUpMolly 27/02/2019 at 3:09 pm

    I have a newborn and coincidentally my 2 year old decided she wouldn’t have a bar of napping. I eventually gave up trying to put her down after a week but found she was super grouchy around 5pm and also telling me she was tired around 2pm. Now I’ve delayed her nap time and I’ve found she’s going to sleep. We have her going down at 7.30pm and find she is chatty and fighting sleep with or without a nap

  6. dawnblyth 27/02/2019 at 11:42 am

    Some children need a nap and it doesn’t affect their sleep at night. However both my boys, after 2/3yrs old, if they were to have a sleep then they wouldn’t get to sleep at night time till a lot later.

  7. Mands1980 25/02/2019 at 11:46 am

    I think all children are different my first 2 had naps till around 3 then my last still needed one til 4 years old. I don’t believe everything they say if they sleep fine at night then they still need a sleep during the day. I wander how they can say this is research it’s s bit crazy.

  8. Bevik1971 25/02/2019 at 10:02 am

    My daughter dropped her day sleeps quite early – from memory she wasn’t having a day sleep from about the age of 2, sometimes she would fall asleep depending on what was going on, but not often. She is 6 now and is in bed early (around 7.00-7.30pm) and up at about the same time in the morning so is definitely getting enough sleep 🙂

  9. Jen_Wiig 19/02/2019 at 1:12 pm

    My experiences with pre schooler naps have meant not only a bit of sanity for me but also a much easier, nicer child to deal with. He still easily goes to sleep at 730pm too and up at 630am so 11hrs on top of an hr during day and hes 4 almost 5…my middle boy still has arvo naps… Some kids just need more sleep, i was the same used to come home from school and have a nap…. None of us seem to have development issues?! I try not to buy into these latest and greatest new studies… Things have been fine for generations of afternoon nappers why now is there an issue? I dont get it… But do whatever works for you really is my motto… We like naps here, they work for us and im deff not worried about possible sleep issues later on

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