Real Research, Real Simple

More Naps = More learning in preschoolers

Sure, kids are adorable when they nap, but aside from staving off fussiness, what other benefits are there to dozing? Well, increasing a preschooler’s memory retention by 10% is a nice bonus. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, have found that napping is key in helping youngsters retain what they learn.

Young child sleeping

Napping and Learning (Photo by K on Flickr)

A batch of cute youngsters (with the permission their doting parents) was rounded up and engaged in memory-based learning followed by naps or wake. Afterwards, when testing the kids’ recall, researchers found something unexpected. Not only did naps result in an immediate 10% improvement in cognitive performance vs non-napping, but these results lasted until the next day – after all the kids had a good night’s sleep. Why? Well, though naps lack non-REM sleep (critical for adult memory), they are invaluable to youngsters.  A brain underdevelopment needs this type of frequent sleep to process and bank what it has learned.

One important thing to note was that the benefit of napping depended on the child’s stage of brain development. Everyone is different. Depriving a kid who needed their daily nap reduced their performance, but preschoolers who did not need daily naps performed the same regardless. Obviously, parents know if their child needs regular naps, but truth be told, who doesn’t have at least one childhood memory best left forgotten?

About the author

Melissa Carmen Cheung, PhD

Passionate about sharing science with the public in a fun and accessible way, Melissa is a Medical Communications professional who earned her Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Toronto. Though her research focused on the design of novel cancer therapeutics, Melissa is intrigued by all facets of science. Her goal in life is to captivate people with the same excitement she feels for science.