A study led by Professor Karen Thorpe from the Faculty of Health and the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation at QUT has found that daytime napping in pre-school age children has a negative impact on night sleep patterns once the child is 3 years or older.
Professor Thorpe said it was widely acknowledged within the childcare sector that napping in pre-school children promoted growth. But having reviewed 26 international and Australian studies related to children under 5, she has concluded that there is "overwhelming evidence" of unnecessary napping.
Professor Thorpe said the study also investigated the development and health outcomes of children's sleep in relation to cognition, behaviour, salivary cortisol, obesity and accidents.
She said the most consistent finding was an association between daytime napping and poorer quality of night sleep among children.
"The evidence for napping and its impact on behaviour, health and development of a child is less clear," she said.
Professor Thorpe said a majority of child and day care centres had scheduled sleep times.
Dr Sally Staton, a joint author of the study, said that while in Australia legislation required that childcare services make "appropriate provision for sleep and rest", there was currently little evidence to guide practice.
Her research showed that, in the absence of guidance, "childcare services employ a large range of practices from no sleep time at all to a mandatory sleep time of as much as 2.5 hours".
"There is a lot of variation in how much daytime sleep an individual child will need and it is important that parents and childcare staff work together to support children's sleep during this time," Dr Staton said.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal's Archives of Disease in Childhood.