How to get great sleep

Even if your child is typically a super snoozer at home, daycare naptime is often a concern for parents, especially during times of transition—like starting in a new classroom. Our teachers understand the worry; but rest assured, they help thousands of children every day get the good, restful naps they need.

“Our teachers meet every child’s needs during naptime—it’s not a struggle or a fight,” says Millie Boychuk, a Center Director in California. “Our teachers know how to get babies to nap. In fact, they are pros at getting children of any age to nap.”

How Our Teachers Get Kids of Every Age to Take a Daycare Nap

As pros, our teachers know a few things about napping babies. (They’ve seen every type of napper in our classrooms.) For instance, even the fussiest napper’s sleep temperament can change over time, meaning that if you’ve got a tot resisting naps at all cost, there are techniques you can use to strengthen their sleep skills. Yes, you read that right! We all have innate sleep temperaments, but sleep is also a learned behavior. Our teachers can help with that.

Below is a list of guidelines every KinderCare center follows. Take special note of guideline #1.

1. There’s no set naptime schedule in our classrooms

We begin with baby-based sleep schedules in our infant classrooms. Naps are provided based on each baby’s individual needs for rest rather than a set infant naptime schedule. Teachers watch each child closely for signs of tiredness, such as eye-rubbing, sucking on hands or fingers, or heavy-headed nodding and drifting off during activity time. Once they see those tell-tale signs, they know it’s naptime!

Photo by David Hume Kennerly

2. We help babies fall asleep with a comforting touch

Our infant teachers comfort each baby the way they like to be comforted as they fall asleep—and every baby is different! So how do we know what works? We partner with families to learn what works best, whether it’s rocking, singing, being held, or using a pacifier. “Our teachers respond to every baby’s need for calm and comfort,” Boychuk says.

3. We always follow safe sleep practices

We follow rigorous Safe Sleep policies recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This includes always placing infants on their backs to sleep, keeping cribs clear of items like pillows and toys, and using a firm mattress with a tight-fitting sheet in our approved cribs.

While babies sleep, we keep a close watch. (Our cribs with see-through sides ensure that we can literally watch them as they sleep!) When they wake, babies are promptly taken out of their cribs and comforted again.

4. We help babies shift to “regular” naps

As children grow, their napping needs become more regular. Children in our toddler, preschool, and prekindergarten classrooms have one long midday nap, but teachers in these classrooms can still support multiple naps if a child requires them. It’s all about whatever they need!

Everyone Belongs In Our Circle

At KinderCare, we’re committed to building warm, welcoming and supportive classrooms for children of all abilities, backgrounds and experiences.

5. We help children gently transition from crib to cot

Children in our centers begin napping on a cot after they move out of the infant room, even though they may still be sleeping in a crib at home. Some parents may be nervous about transitioning to a cot for naps at school, and Boychuk assures them that there is no need to worry. “Most children adjust very quickly and teachers are always right there supervising,” Boychuk says. “They help each child get settled and stay with them during rest times.”

6. We encourage children to participate in their own nap routine

As they get older, children take on more and more responsibility for their own naptime set-up: picking a blanket, making the bed, or even setting up a cot. Not only does working together often mean less nap resistance, practicing these life skills builds confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

It also gives children an appropriate level of control: at first maybe just choosing which cuddly toy they’ll sleep with or how they want their blanket, then working up to stretching a sheet over their own cot. (Yes, even young children can make their own beds with a little encouragement and help!)

Photo by David Hume Kennerly

7. We work to make naptime soothing for older children, too

Sometimes, you just need a special routine to help you close your eyes. Toddlers and older children are welcome to bring a blanket or a favorite lovey from home, while soft music and low lighting helps set the sleepy-time mood. And if a toddler still loves being rocked to sleep? No problem. We’re happy to soothe them however they need until they become more independent sleepers.

8. We follow a lights-low, shoes-on approach

Not everything is just like home—with good reason. “We do follow stricter safety standards than you might at home,” says Boychuk. Children nap with shoes on, because we are always prepared to help children exit the building quickly and safely in the event of an emergency. During naps, classrooms are dimly lit—but not completely dark—so that teachers can watch children while they’re sleeping.

9. We value the need for rest

If a child sleeps for longer than the allotted naptime, we let them sleep. Growing bodies really do need those restorative naps!

A Lifetime Of Confidence Starts Here

Our teachers help every child build the confidence they need to try new things and explore the world around them.

10. We provide quiet activities for children who just can’t sleep

Children nap quietly for at least 30 to 45 minutes each day—but we never force wakeful children to close their eyes or go to sleep. During naptime, non-nappers can read quietly or do other quiet activities in their cots. At Boychuk’s center, teachers create “felt puzzles.” They cut up a picture into a simple puzzle, and then paste felt on the backs of the pieces. These homemade puzzles are made for naps, because the pieces won’t make noise when they fall on the floor. Genius!

Parents are also always welcome to come in and see how naptime works in a new classroom. “Within a week, children have learned the new classroom routine,” Boychuk says. “Parents always say, ‘I don’t know how you do it.’” We’re more than happy to show you!

Daycare naptime can be a positive experience for all! To get your tot (and the whole family) on board with a new nap routine, we’ve got a list of tips to help sleep transitions during the first few weeks of school.

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How to get great sleep

How to get great sleep

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It’s important to get enough sleep. Sleep helps keep your mind and body healthy.

How much sleep do I need?

Most adults need 7 or more hours of good-quality sleep on a regular schedule each night.

Getting enough sleep isn’t only about total hours of sleep. It’s also important to get good-quality sleep on a regular schedule so you feel rested when you wake up.

If you often have trouble sleeping — or if you often still feel tired after sleeping — talk with your doctor.

How much sleep do children need?

Kids need even more sleep than adults:

  • Teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night
  • School-aged children need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night
  • Preschoolers need to sleep between 10 and 13 hours a day (including naps)
  • Toddlers need to sleep between 11 and 14 hours a day (including naps)
  • Babies need to sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day (including naps)
  • Newborns need to sleep between 14 and 17 hours a day

The Basics: Health Benefits

Why is getting enough sleep important?

Getting enough sleep has many benefits. It can help you:

  • Get sick less often
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease
  • Reduce stress and improve your mood
  • Think more clearly and do better in school and at work
  • Get along better with people
  • Make good decisions and avoid injuries — for example, drowsy drivers cause thousands of car accidents every year

The Basics: Sleep Schedule

Does it matter when I sleep?

Yes. Your body sets your “biological clock” according to the pattern of daylight where you live. This helps you naturally get sleepy at night and stay alert during the day.

If you have to work at night and sleep during the day, you may have trouble getting enough sleep. It can also be hard to sleep when you travel to a different time zone.

Get sleep tips to help you:

The Basics: Trouble Sleeping

Why can’t I fall asleep?

Many things can make it harder for you to sleep, including:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Pain
  • Certain health conditions, like heartburn or asthma
  • Some medicines
  • Caffeine (usually from coffee, tea, and soda)
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Untreated sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or insomnia

If you’re having trouble sleeping, try making changes to your routine to get the sleep you need. You may want to:

  • Change what you do during the day — for example, get your physical activity in the morning instead of at night
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment — for example, make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet
  • Set a bedtime routine — for example, go to bed at the same time every night

The Basics: Sleep Disorders

How can I tell if I have a sleep disorder?

Sleep disorders can cause many different problems. Keep in mind that it’s normal to have trouble sleeping every now and then. People with sleep disorders generally experience these problems on a regular basis.

Common signs of sleep disorders include:

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Still feeling tired after a good night’s sleep
  • Sleepiness during the day that makes it difficult to do everyday activities, like driving or concentrating at work
  • Frequent loud snoring
  • Pauses in breathing or gasping while sleeping
  • Tingling or crawling feelings in your legs or arms at night that feel better when you move or massage the area
  • Feeling like it’s hard to move when you first wake up

If you have any of these signs, talk to a doctor or nurse. You may need testing or treatment for a sleep disorder.

To learn more about sleep disorders:

Take Action: Daytime Habits

Making small changes to your daily routine can help you get the sleep you need.

Change what you do during the day.

  • Try to spend some time outdoors every day
  • Plan your physical activity for earlier in the day, not right before you go to bed
  • Stay away from caffeine (including coffee, tea, and soda) late in the day
  • If you have trouble sleeping at night, limit daytime naps to 20 minutes or less
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation (less than 1 drink in a day for women and less than 2 drinks in a day for men) — alcohol can keep you from sleeping well
  • Don’t eat a big meal close to bedtime
  • If you smoke, make a plan to quit — the nicotine in cigarettes can make it harder for you to sleep

Take Action: Nighttime Habits

Create a good sleep environment.

  • Make sure your bedroom is dark — if there are streetlights near your window, try putting up light-blocking curtains
  • Keep your bedroom quiet
  • Consider keeping electronic devices — like TVs, computers, and smartphones — out of your bedroom

Set a bedtime routine.

  • Go to bed at the same time every night
  • Try to get the same amount of sleep each night
  • Avoid eating, talking on the phone, or reading in bed
  • Avoid using computers or smartphones, watching TV, or playing video games at bedtime
  • If you find yourself up at night worrying about things, use these tips to help manage stress

If you’re still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up. Do something relaxing, like reading or meditating, until you feel sleepy.

Take Action: See a Doctor

If you’re concerned about your sleep, see a doctor.

Talk with a doctor or nurse if you have any of the following signs of a sleep disorder:

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Still feeling tired after a good night’s sleep
  • Sleepiness during the day that makes it difficult to do everyday activities, like driving or concentrating at work
  • Frequent loud snoring
  • Pauses in breathing or gasping while sleeping
  • Tingling or crawling feelings in your legs or arms at night that feel better when you move or massage the area
  • Trouble staying awake during the day
  • Feeling like it’s hard to move when you first wake up

Even if you don’t have these problems, talk with a doctor if you feel like you often have trouble sleeping.

Keep a sleep diary [PDF – 53 KB] for a week and share it with your doctor. A doctor can suggest different sleep routines or medicines to treat sleep disorders. Talk with a doctor before trying over-the-counter sleep medicine.

Content last updated July 8, 2021

Reviewer Information

This information on sleep was adapted from materials from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Aging.

Reviewed by:
Michael Twery, Ph.D
Director, National Center on Sleep Disorders Research
Division of Lung Diseases
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, according to a new study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This is the first study to document estimates of self-reported healthy sleep duration (7 or more hours per day) for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults aged 18–60 years sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.

“As a nation we are not getting enough sleep,” said Wayne Giles, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Population Health. “Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night; rising at the same time each morning; and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need.”

Prevalence of healthy sleep duration varies by geography, race/ethnicity, employment, marital status

CDC researchers reviewed data from the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based, random-digit–dialed telephone survey conducted collaboratively by state health departments and CDC.