BODY WATCH : A Little Pillow Talk

Kids follow a predictable napping pattern, regardless of parental coaxing, according to a recent study that tracked the daytime snooze habits of 172 children from 6 months to their 7th birthdays.

Here's what research, published in the journal Sleep, revealed:

* Nap patterns are generally the same for boys and girls and for firstborns and later-borns.

* Six-month-old children typically nap two or three times a day, sleeping a total of about 3 1/2 hours. The longest nappers snoozed as long as six hours; short nappers got in only one hour.

* Long nappers stay that way through childhood; ditto short nappers.

* By 9 months, nearly all children had given up the third nap of the day. The morning nap was usually abandoned somewhere between 15 months and 24 months.

* By age 3, one in five children had given up naps completely; by age 4, one in three had stopped napping.

* Most kids give up napping on their own.

* Napping seems to reduce crankiness in children.

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Source: Research by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, Northwestern University pediatrician and author of "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" (Ballantine, 1987).

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