Sunday, January 8, 2012

Missed Naps and Mood Disorders

A news article about naps and mood disorders caught my attention this weekend. The article claimed that a new study indicates that toddlers who miss daytime naps are at an increased risk for mood disorders later in life.
“This study shows insufficient sleep in the form of missing a nap taxes the way toddlers express different feelings, and, over time, may shape their developing emotional brains and put them at risk for lifelong, mood-related problems,” explained study leader Monique LeBourgeois.
This study made me laugh a little because my first thought was, doesn’t the child miss naps because of a mood disorder. It’s the whole “what comes first, the chicken or the egg?” I tend to think that if a child missed their naps, it was because they couldn’t sleep. There aren’t many moms that would purposely deprive their child of naps, I mean let’s be serious, in motherhood, the nap is the golden hour. But if your child has mood issues, this hour can be robbed by your child’s inability to sleep.

When I think back to when my son was a toddler, I have unpleasant memories of trying to get him to take a nap. The challenge went on for hours sometimes. I would try different techniques, different times of day, you name it, we tried it and still couldn’t get my son to nap.

But I don’t think his missed naps caused the mood disorder, instead I believe that the mood issues were already underway in his brain making napping difficult for him.

It wasn’t until I had a second child that I found out that toddlers really do nap and it isn’t always such a monumental task.

What about your child, did they have trouble napping as a toddler?

Missed Naps Could Put Toddlers at Risk for Mood Disorders:


  1. I am not aware of anything that can cause a mood disorder. That is crazy! Now I can become moody wthout sleep, but it is only temporary. Funny I was browing through ds's baby book yesterday gathering info. to take to our psych. evaluation tomorrow. I noticed how he would not take naps, had trouble gaining weight, drooled excessively. Well they say hindsight is 20/20.

  2. I agree that moodiness is a temporary condition for a missed nap, but like you said, it can’t cause a mood disorder, I refuse to believe that.

    It’s funny you mention that your child had trouble gaining weight, my son has always been on the thin side and when he was a toddler our HMO sent us to a nutritionist to make sure I was feeding him well. They agreed that his diet was good and recommended things to try and increase his weight. In the end, they all agreed that my son was a naturally thin child-still is.

  3. Wow, when I read the first part of the post I started snorting. I'm definitely in the "mood disorder causes missed naps" camp. I don't know how many naps I initiated with at least a half an hour of holding him down and singing over his crying... If I lasted long enough, he would eventually fall asleep.

    And then my daughter came along. She could nap in the wagon as I pulled it along the bumpy sidewalk to go pick my son up from school.

    I think this study just proves what Moms worldwide already know--a toddler that misses a nap gets cranky. It is a huge leap to infer that a cranky day will rewire the brain for a mood disorder. My son came wired that way from day one.

  4. I had a similar experience as Heather. I didn't realize that getting kids to nap and to sleep at night was not a huge battle until my second son came along. I'm STILL amazed sometimes (he is almost 12, 14 months younger than my first son) when I see him doze off in the car when we are driving sometimes! My older son never did and still can't fall asleep in the car or most other places for that matter.

  5. I think I find this information more infuriating than helpful, mostly because it seems to reflect that science is still a looooong way off from helping our kids. I know it's getting better, and I honestly believe that in the next 10 to 20 years they will know a thousand times more than they know now, but for those of us suffering it still feels like a long way off.

    I imagine my daughter's mood disorder like a tree--a tree with lots of limbs and thousands of leaves. Naps represent one small branch with some leaves. Sure, the missed naps can be a clue, but it's really only a small part of a very large, very complicated, many, many leafed tree. My daughter was actually a pretty good sleeper. She napped fairly well, but she gave it up sooner than my older son did. At age 3 she was done.

    I feel like this is another case of "the chicken and the egg." Do kids with mood disorders have trouble sleeping? Certainly. Is it because they're pre-wired that way and the missed sleep is a red flag? Or are they pre-wired that way and the missed sleep triggers the mood disorder? Same with any other issue in our kids' lives. Are they born pre-disposed to a mood disorder and it is triggered because of environmental or situational circumstances, or do environmental or situation circumstances create a mood disorder. AAAAAGH! The frustration.

    If you've even seen the documentary by Frontline called, "The Medicated Child" there is a psychiatrist who is interviewed that recalled the late 1970s when childhood cancer was almost always fatal. It wasn't until doctors finally agreed that all children diagnosed with cancer automatically went into a national research program that they began to reverse that trend. Each child's type of cancer and treatment and therapy was recorded and studied. And you know what? Childhood cancer is mostly curable these days. He was demanding that the same thing be done for all kids with mood disorders. How are we not at that point? How are we not at the place--especially while this medical issue is exploding in numbers--where we are fighting it and studying it as a whole and not in bits and pieces?

    Sorry, that was me venting at the medical world a little bit. Thanks for your listening ears. :)

  6. Cathy-You make some excellent points, I saw the medicated child episode but forgot all about the comment about childhood cancer. It really is frustrating!