A nap after learning helps a baby consolidate its learning and memories, a new study finds.
The study suggests that a flexible napping schedule could help infants learn.
Dr Jane Herbert, one of the study’s authors, said:
“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.
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, but our results show that activities occurring just before infants have a nap can be particularly valuable and well-remembered.”
The study, which is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), involved showing over 200 infants between six- and twelve-months-old how to remove a mitten from a puppet (Seehagen et al., 2015).
They were tested on their newly learned skill 4 hours later and after 24 hours.
Some of the infants napped within four hours of learning while others did not.
The results showed that only infants who napped for at least 30 minutes within four hours of learning could remember how to remove the puppet’s mitten.
Babies that did not nap within four hours could not remember.
Dr Jane Herbert continued:
“Parents receive lots of advice about what they should and shouldn’t do with their baby’s sleep schedule.
This study however examined learning opportunities around naturally occurring naps and shows just how valuable activities like reading books with young children just before they go down to sleep can be.”
The researchers conclude:
“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, but our results show that activities occurring just before infants have a nap can be particularly valuable and well-remembered.”
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Image credit: Paul Goyette