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The Impact of Nap Restriction on Napping in Preschoolers
Sponsored by the Thomas Wilson Foundation -- 6304.
Preschools and daycare centers have increasingly reduced napping in early childhood programs. Because young children have an increased diurnal sleep drive, they are able to maintain wakefulness and focus for only limited periods of time. Thus, children whose sleep is restricted may display difficulty with cognitive functions dependent on attention and emotional regulation. Some researchers even hypothesize that a subset of young children diagnosed with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are actually just sleep deprived.
The elimination of nap time may adversely impact the child's ability to engage in developmentally critical peer and adult interactions. Unfortunately, evidence-based guidelines for when naps are developmentally necessary have not been established. As a result, early childhood programs continue to eliminate napping to increase academic learning time.
The primary goal of the study is to clarify the role of daytime napping and night time sleep in the cognitive and behavioral development of young children ages three to five years. To achieve this goal, this study will evaluate the attention, behavior, and night time sleep patterns of children during a brief, controlled nap restriction protocol. At present, it remains unclear whether altering a child's sleep pattern towards more night time sleep improves neurocognitive function; however, preliminary work in this area suggests that children who sleep more at night perform better on neurocognitive tests. The rationale for the study is that an understanding of the sleep needs of children can optimize their ability to learn by creating age-appropriate standards for scheduled nap times and night time sleep routines for children aged three to five years.