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Child Development: Naptime Helps Preschoolers Learn Better

Update Date: Feb 14, 2017 07:45 PM EST

It has been proven by various experts that sleep plays a significant role in retaining and sustaining learning in infants. In the latest on child development, researchers from the University of Arizona investigated the effect on sleep or naptimes on preschoolers on language learning. They found that naptime helps preschoolers learn better.

The study investigated the effect of sleep on preschoolers as this tend to be the period where most children this age tend to have fewer naptimes. Just like how sleep benefits learning in infants, the study to find a similar effect on preschoolers with regards to language learning. In particular, the study tested how young children understand new verbs when tested after 24-hours.

The researchers conducted two experiments on 39 3-year-olds. The preschoolers were divided into two groups: habitual nappers or children take naptimes from four to more days a week and non-habitual nappers or children who take naptimes fewer than three days a week.

Each group was randomly assigned a napping condition. One condition had one group of children sleep or take a 30-minute nap after learning a new verb. Another condition had one group of children experienced a wakefulness condition in which the preschoolers don't take a nap after learning the new verb.

The experiments taught the preschoolers two made-up verbs: "blicking" and "rooping". The children were shown a video in which two different actors acted out the verbs. A day after, the children were shown another video with another set of actors who acted out the verbs. The children are then asked which actor was doing the "blicking" and which actor was doing the "rooping".

By using two different sets of actors in the videos, the researchers are able to assess how the children generalized the word learning. This means that the researchers measured how the children are able to recognize the new verbs when performed even in a different context.

The study, published in Child Development, found that children, regardless if they are habitual or non-habitual nappers, who slept within about the hour after learning the verbs performed better than those who were asked to stay awake. During the assessment, children who took a nap were able to generalize the verb learning compared to those children who did not take a nap.

According to the researchers, the learning benefit that comes from napping is linked to what is known as slow-wave sleep. Slow-wave sleep is one of the phases of sleeping where previous research has shown to contribute to memory consolidation. In fact, during slow-wave sleep, the brain recalls or replays the memories during thereby strengthening them in people's minds.

Parents should not be alarmed is their preschooler is not taking naps since their sleep behaviors can vary at their age. What is important though is that preschoolers should get at least ten hours of sleep a day whether it be a combination of naptimes and nighttime sleep. As for the lack of sleep, especially in young children can have long-term effects on both their mental and physical health.

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