To examine the relationship between mandatory naptimes in child care and children's nighttime sleep duration, both concurrently and 12 months later once in school.
A sample of 168 children (50–72 months; 55% males) attending licensed child care centers were observed across their morning and throughout their scheduled naptime. Mandatory naptime was determined as the period in which children were not permitted any alternative activity except lying on their bed. Teachers reported each child's napping in child care. Nighttime and total sleep duration was reported by parents at 2 time points, in child care and in the second semester of their first school year. General linear models were used to examine group differences in sleep duration between children experiencing 0 to 60 minutes and >60 minutes of mandatory naptime, adjusting for key confounders. Path analysis was conducted to test a mediation model in which mandatory naptime is associated with nighttime sleep duration through increased napping in child care.
Children who experienced >60 minutes of mandatory naptime in child care had significantly less nighttime sleep than those with 0 to 60 minutes of mandatory naptime. This difference persisted at 12-month follow-up, once children were in school. Napping in child care mediated the relationship between mandatory naptime and duration of nighttime sleep.
Exposure to mandatory naptimes of >60 minutes in child care is associated with decreased duration of nighttime sleep that endures beyond child care attendance. Given the large number of children who attend child care, sleep practices within these settings present an important focus for child health.