Mid-day naps help nurture growing brains

Your little ones daily nap is like a dream to you, providing you with the much needed break, but is it necessary for the baby?

According to experts, daytime nap has benefits beyond rest for kids. All parents know that a daytime nap can help keep preschoolers from getting cranky and hyperactive.

Now a new study suggests that it also helps nurture growing brains. Researchers found evidence that daytime sleep was critical for learning in young children.

It was noted that nappers scored better on a memory task and the payoff of daytime rest extended to the following day. In other words naps are vital for memory consolidation, a process that strengthens the brain’s ability to learn new information.

Lead author Rebecca Spencer, a research psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in a statement, “Essentially, we are the first to report evidence that naps are important for preschool children. Our study shows that naps help the kids better remember what they are learning in preschool.”

Details of the study
In order to establish whether mid-day nap enhances learning in preschoolers, the researchers carried out a small study.They tested the memory of 40 pre-schoolers in the age bracket of 3 to 5 years.

For the purpose of the study, the kids were taught a simple computer game that required them to memorize the images of nine to 12 items like a cat, an umbrella, and a policeman on a grid. After the training, the subjects could remember the positions of around 75 percent of the pictures.

The children were tested on how well they remembered the location of each image under two conditions, one in which they had a afternoon test, and another in which they skipped the midday rest.

It was noted that kids who were allowed to snooze after lunch performed significantly better on a visual-spatial tasks in the afternoon and the following morning than when they were deprived of the siesta. The study found children without a nap recalled 65 percent of the information learnt whereas when they took naps there was no change in their morning score of 75 percent.

Gareth Gaskell, professor of psychology at York University stated, “This demonstrates very vividly the value of sleep for consolidating memories. Very young children find it quite difficult to retain information over the course of a full day, so in those circumstances, a nap is going to be useful for ensuring that whatever they learn is retained in the longer term.

“At these ages, children are shifting from multiple sleeps in 24 hours to a single sleep overnight. It may well be that non-habitual nappers are becoming more adult-like, and have got that little bit further in the process.”

The study was published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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