In a new study by sleep researchers at the report for the first time evidence that naps and overnight sleep may work together to benefit memory in early childhood.
Neuroscientist Rebecca Spencer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst let the study, which indicated good naps as well as a good night’s sleep seem to work together to consolidate memories in young children.
During the study, researchers presented children cards to memorize. Change in memory accuracy did not differ when tested after a nap. However, when memory was tested again following overnight sleep, the change in memory accuracy was greater if the child had napped the previous day. Further, Spencer and colleagues report, greater nap slow wave activity was associated with greater memory decay during the nap. Yet nap slow wave activity also predicted greater overnight improvement in memory. Together, “these results suggest that sleep bouts can interact to benefit memory in early childhood,” they conclude.
Overall, the authors report, “results of this study are consistent with those in procedural memory consolidation in preschool-aged children.” As in observations by others, “both a nap and subsequent overnight sleep was necessary to observe performance benefits.”
“This study demonstrates that napping is beneficial to memory processing,” they point out. “Given the importance of socio-emotional learning in preschool naps averaging 70 minutes may support the curricular goals of early childhood education. As such, napping remains an important part of the daily preschool schedule and sufficient time for sleep should be protected.”