Catnaps in the Car - Should They Be Avoided?


Naps are an important part of the sleep cycle for infants, babies, and toddlers. While most kids transition to getting all of their sleep in one stretch at night around age 4, babies and toddlers need one or two naps during the day, in addition to a full night's sleep, to meet their full sleep needs. Sometimes, though, schedules can feel too hectic to ensure that a child gets a full nap in their crib – so is it ok for kids to take a cat nap in the car without messing up their sleep cycle? At 5 Little Monkeys, our mission is to help parents everywhere give their children the healthy, restful sleep they need, so we'd like to shed a little light on this subject.

Are Catnaps OK for Kids?

Ultimately, there's no single right answer to this question – but there are some things to keep in mind.

Before reaching 6 months of age, where and when your child sleeps doesn't really matter that much. That's because infants don't yet have a developed circadian rhythm, so their bodies can sleep anywhere, anytime. However, after 6 months, your baby's circadian rhythm will sync up to daily cycles of light and dark. This is when the timing and location of naps start to matter.

Ideally, your child will get 2 full naps, in the morning and afternoon, in their crib. The problem with napping in a stroller or car is that this doesn't teach your child to self-soothe for daytime sleep: instead, the rocking motion of the movement is what lulls them to sleep. While this doesn't appear to affect the quality of their sleep, it may hinder their ability to fall asleep in the crib.

More important than the location of a child's nap, however, is the length. It's important that children sleep for at least one full sleep cycle, which lasts about 50 minutes for infants and about 60 minutes for toddlers. This means that "cat naps" are a no-go for kids: naps of 20-30 minutes interrupt a sleep cycle, which can leave children irritable, unstable, and with more trouble falling asleep that night.

Try Our Children's Mattress Risk-Free

Naps in the car or the stroller may not be ideal, but they are an acceptable way for a child to get a nap if you're in a rush or on the go – the main issue is ensuring your child gets a full hour-long nap instead of a 20-30 minute catnap. However, regardless of their napping schedule, it's important to make sure your child has a high-quality children's mattress to ensure proper sleep. At 5 Little Monkeys, we've worked hard to create one of the best kids mattresses on the market. See the difference that a high-quality mattress can make and try ours risk-free for the first 100 nights. We guarantee you and your child will fall in love with the truly healthy, restful sleep!