For many parents of young children, the highlight of their day is nap time – not for them, but for their little ones. Especially now, with most preschools closed, getting a child to nap is the golden ticket. Not only can it mean uninterrupted work or self-care time for parents, but their unrecognizable tyrants often wake as happy campers after a nap.
Researchers have validated this experience. One study presented 3-year-olds with an unsolvable puzzle, one with a missing piece, either after they napped or after they missed their nap. They found the nap-deprived children showed more negative emotions – sadness, worry and anger – when faced with the puzzle than rested children did.
As a cognitive neuroscientist, I study sleep. My research shows that naps help young children regulate their emotions and solidify memories that accumulate so quickly at this age.