Kids Who Stop Napping Early Show Differences in Anxiety and Language Skills: New Study

We have affiliate relationships where we are paid a commission on sales through some of our links. See our disclosures.
fighting naps kid 2252145 1280

Most children stop napping during the day anywhere between 2 and 5 years old (even if their parents don’t want them to). A new study, published this month in Sleep Health, sheds light into the benefits of early nap cessation — yes, there are some (1)!

We already know naps help young children with memory among other benefits including literacy skills. But it turns out there are perks for when kids stop napping during the day, too.

According to the scientists children who stopped napping before they turned three had higher receptive language ability and less anxiety. 

Evaluating Nap Cessation

Even when researchers accounted for other known predictors of nap cessation, and language and behavior, they found stopping a nap at around three years of age was linked to specific perks. 

The new study was one of the largest pieces of evidence to date to test these relations and the second to investigate early nap cessation as a distinct group, says Adam Newton, PhD, an assistant professor at Western University in Canada, a study author.

Researchers looked at data from 4,923 children who were put into three groups: 0-1 year old, 2-3 years old, and 4-5 years old. Just over half the children were boys and 90 percent were white. 

About 11 percent of the children in the study were in the 3-year-old group, Newton points out.

Children who stopped napping by their third birthday tended to have higher receptive language scores than children who were still napping at that age, the study says. Early nap cessation was not associated with cognitive ability, aggression, or hyperactivity-inattention after controlling for other variables, the authors wrote. This suggests that nap cessation may coincide with other aspects of development but does not uniquely contribute to these relations, they wrote.

The team says their findings align with previous research, and add that future studies should look at differences tied to late nap cessation, effects in nap-encouraging cultures, and by ethnicity.

Newton says it’s not know if benefits occur if a child has one less nap a day but doesn’t stop napping completely.

When Young Children “Should” Stop Napping

So, what’s it all mean if you have a little one? “There is no ideal age when a child should not be napping during the day,” Newton says.

Research does show that most children stop napping around the time they turn five. 

“We do not suggest an ideal age when a child should not be napping,” Newton says. “Rather, we advocate for a supportive and flexible nap environment.”

That is, children should be given the opportunity for either a nap or quiet time throughout early childhood from 2-5 years old, Newton says. 

“A good indicator of when to reduce or stop naps (and switch to quiet time) seems to be night-time sleep. If a child has more difficulty falling asleep, wakes more often in the night, or wakes too early in the morning, it could be a sign they are sleeping too much during the day,” he adds.

The Verdict on Naps and Nap Cessation

“Our research and the research of other groups seems to suggest that napping is a developmental process that is influenced by genetics and the environment,” Newton explains. “That is, some children will need to nap later into development and other children will be able to stop napping when they are younger.”

Newton thinks that when children are ready to give up their daytime naps, it may mean their receptive language systems (including memory for language) have developed adequately. This isn’t to say naps can’t be beneficial for older kids as well. A 2019 study on children in 4th to 6th grades found that regular naps led to better cognition, improved psychological wellness, and reduced emotional and behavioral problems. 

Getting Your Kids To Sleep At Any Age

Getting Your Kids To Sleep At Any Age

Ask any parent about their biggest kid-related challenges, and odds are good sleep comes up. Babies, toddlers and kids of all ages can experience sleep issues—and that can leave exhausted parents scrambling for … Read more
Read More
  • 1. Adam T. Newton, Paul F. Tremblay, Laura J. Batterink, Graham J. Reid; “Early nap cessation in young children as a correlate of language and psychosocial outcomes: Evidence from a large Canadian sample,” Sleep Health;; December 15, 2024.

  • Newton, Adam. Author interview. December 2024.

Kristen Fischer

Kristen Fischer

Kristen Fischer is a journalist and copywriter who has written about health for more than 15 years. She has written for Prevention, Healthline, Parade, Verywell Health, WW, and GoodRx. She is the author of the children's book "Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids."

Leave a Comment