Every parent wants their kid to learn better. Letting them take an afternoon nap can aid this. A new first-of-its-kind study has found that taking an hour-long nap during the day can boost learning in preschool children by improving their memory.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that a nap helped children better remember pre-school lessons. Research psychologist Rebecca Spencer, with students Kasey Duclos and Laura Kurdziel, said their results suggest that naps are critical for memory consolidation and early learning, based on their study of preschool children.
"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," Spencer said. For the study, Spencer and colleagues recruited 40 children from six preschools across western Massachusetts.
The children were taught a visual-spatial task similar to the game ‘Memory’ in the mornings by the researchers. In this game, children see a grid of pictures and have to remember where different pictures are located. Each child was made to participate in two conditions- one where the children were encouraged to nap during their regular classroom. An average of 77 minutes of nap was observed in the classroom; in second condition, children were kept awake for the same amount of time.
Children’s memory was tested after taking the nap and again the following day to see whether night-time sleep affected the performance. As observed, children when they had not taken a nap forgot significantly more item locations on the memory test with 65 per cent accuracy. Whereas, 75 per cent accuracy in the test was recorded when children slept during the day. Thus, children recalled 10 per cent more of the test locations than when they not had been kept awake.
"While the children performed about the same immediately after learning in both the nap and wake conditions, the children performed significantly better when they napped both in the afternoon and the next day," researchers concluded."That means that when they miss a nap, the child cannot recover this benefit of sleep with their overnight sleep. It seems that there is an additional benefit of having the sleep occurring in close proximity to the learning," they said. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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