It's Not Just Kids Who Need Naps In The Day – Us Parents Do, Too

Michelle Martin

Children are happier, have fewer behavioural problems and excel academically when they take a nap in the afternoon, a new study suggests. And I can totally believe it. 

The research from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California revealed a connection between midday napping and greater happiness and self control, as well as a higher IQ – the latter particularly evident in older kids.

Nearly 3,000 children aged 9-12 were involved in the study over several years. Their napping frequency and duration were analysed – along with how they behaved and performed at school.

“Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6% increase in academic performance,” co-author Adrian Raine concluded.

“How many kids at school would not want their scores to go up by 7.6 points out of 100?” The report also showed that sleep deficiency and daytime drowsiness is widespread, affecting up to 20% of all children. 

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Sleep researcher Sara Mednick called it “the first comprehensive study of its kind”, adding: “The more students sleep during the day, the greater the benefit of naps on many of these measures.”

Now, this study seems like a bit of a no-brainer to me. Anyone with kids will readily admit that the afternoon nap can change a child’s temperament with almost immediate effect. It’s like recharging their batteries – especially when they’re young – and if they don’t have one, you’re left with a grizzly, easily agitated child, who will be miserable until bedtime. Oh, the joys. 

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My grandson might be younger than the children tested in the study, but nap time is an essential part of his daily routine. Heading to the land of nod every afternoon practically guarantees us a couple of virtually stress-free hours in the evening.

Nap, play, dinner, wind-down, bath, bed. That’s how it goes. When that routine is broken, I’m left with a grandson who falls asleep at the wrong time, usually early evening, then wakes up out of sync and raring to go – at 9pm. 

But who doesn’t feel revitalised if they’re lucky enough to take 40 winks in the afternoon on the sofa? Here’s my two scents: nap time should be made mandatory for everyone – parents included. The UK should seriously consider an afternoon napping culture, for kids and adults. 

After all, if it works for adults in China, surely we can make it work here?

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