Napping boosts infants’ memory

While babies devote the majority of their time to sleeping, researchers have now found that napping helps them develop memory and retain new behaviours they have learnt.

“These findings are particularly interesting to both parents and educationalists because they suggest that the optimal time for infants to learn new information is just before they have a sleep,” said researcher Jane Herbert from University of Sheffield.

Researchers explored whether daytime sleep after learning helped babies to remember new behaviour.

The study focused on 216 healthy six to 12-month-old infants and tested their ability to recall newly learned skills.

The youngsters were shown how to remove and manipulate a mitten from a hand puppet.

Only infants who had napped after the learning activity remembered the target actions whilst those who had not napped showed no evidence of remembering the new information and behaviour, the findings showed.

After a 24-hour delay children in the napping group also exhibited significantly better recall compared with infants in the no-nap group.

“Until now people have presumed that the best time for infants to learn is when they are wide-awake, rather than when they are starting to feel tired,” Herbert noted.

“Our results show that activities occurring just before infants have a nap can be particularly valuable and well-remembered,” Herbert added.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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