Most parents and preschool teachers swear by an afternoon nap for young children. Without a nap, a child can become grumpy or giddy. Now research points to another benefit of napping — improved memory.
A University of Massachusetts at Amherst study of 49 preschool children, ages 3 to 5 years old, found that naps, when combined with a good night’s sleep, help kids consolidate memories.
The children were shown neutral pictures of men’s and women’s faces and told either positive or negative things about them, such as “Lena is always nice. Today she helped us pour milk into our cups at lunch time,” according to a news release from the university. Then they tested their emotional memory about each face (were they mean or nice?) immediately after learning, after a delay that for some included a nap and that for others included quiet play time, and again the next day.
Researchers didn’t find any difference between the emotional memory of children who napped and those who didn’t nap on the day the pictures were shown. But the next day, after a good night’s sleep, those who napped had better emotional memory than those who didn’t nap.
“This study demonstrates that napping is beneficial to memory processing,” said Rebecca Spencer, neuroscientist and lead author. “Naps averaging 70 minutes may support the curricular goals of early childhood education.”