I’m bringing naps back. Yes, you heard me right. I am tired. My son is tired. Aren’t you tired right now? Doesn’t a nap sound pretty fantastic?!
When my son, W, was in preschool, his class was divided. There were nappers and non-nappers. Every day, after lunch, the nappers would grab soft blankets from their cubbies and shuffle over to a quiet room. Depending on which teacher was watching them, they would either get classical music played to lull them off into Nap Land or the calming vibe of an afternoon breeze coming in through an open window.
Meanwhile, the non-nappers lined up and made their way to the gym or to the playground.
Over time, the nappers turned into non-nappers — because who wants to miss extra play time? It was a very sad day when I picked up W from preschool and his teacher told me we didn’t need to bring his blanket back. W was officially a non-napper.
While he was thrilled about this new development, I was terrified. The middle-of-the-day nap was a bit like magic for him. It was a restorative elixir. It maintained the equilibrium. It seemed dangerous and risky to have a kid who operated at 100% suddenly no longer have a moment to recharge. I recharge my cell phone twice a day, surely my kid needed a moment.
Within the first week of non-napping, I immediately noticed the effects on his behavior. Understandable effects: grumpiness, fatigue, change in appetite. That’s exactly how I behave when I am sleep-deprived as well. To counterbalance the non-napping, I adjusted his bedtime to be earlier.
Over the years, there have been moments where I have had to wave the nap flag. My son is an incredibly early riser, always has been, but if we have a full day planned, I know he will function better if he has a nap. Reluctantly, and sometimes with great vocal resentment, he will agree to “slow down” or “stretch out” in his room. It wasn’t something he routinely did, but it was one of my mom “back-pocket” calls I occasionally needed to make.
Over the summer the “occasional” nap became something more regular. W was in summer camp during the week and those days were long and physically exhausting for him. He was having a blast, but I could tell he was burning his energy up. Over the weekend I regularly allocated for naps to be folded into the schedule. Many times I would make afternoon plans contingent on having a nap (incentive can be a wonderful thing!).
I thought I was properly recharging him. I thought he could catch up and refuel on sleep over the weekend.
I was wrong.
While the naps were great for us over the weekend, I learned there is no such thing as “carry over” sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says a Harvard study “demonstrates that it is nearly impossible to ‘catch up on sleep’ to improve performance.”
Recently a Wisconsin school shared a very handy guide for calculating what time kids should go to bed. Wilson Elementary’s chart breaks things down by age, sleeping time, and waking time. I thought I had figured out W’s bedtime correctly, but after looking at this chart, it’s made me realize he’s still got a sleep deficit happening.
Since I can’t do anything about how early he wakes up, I need to start adjusting his bedtime. Moving bedtime up earlier means less family time, and possibly less activities. So this becomes one of those “pick your battle” moments. At the moment, with this being the start of the school year and since we’re still adjusting to new routines, I feel like more sleep is the ideal — for all of us.
Yes. I said ALL of us.
W wasn’t the only one who started back to school this year. I also went back to school (after a 20-year break) and managing college on top of everything else in my life, curve balls and all, is exhausting. One of the random perks of my crazy schedule: sometimes I am home to nap. If I have 20 minutes unallocated, I am taking them to recharge. A new study shared in Tech Times says this mid-day nap might save my life (by reducing blood pressure and decreasing my risk for a heart attack).
Let’s bring the naps back. For everyone!