Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Baby's Naps Foster Learning

If you have been a parent for any length of time, you know that naps are a beautiful thing--for your child...and you. Daytime naps are great for helping keep your baby or toddler in a good mood. We all know how edgy a non-napping baby or toddler can become. New research is also showing us how naps are important for babies' memory and learning.

In this new study, 6-12 month-old babies were taught a new skill (i.e. using a hand puppet). Then some of the infants napped for at least 30 minutes and the other group did not nap. Later, the babies were given the opportunity to replicate the new skill on their own. As you might expect, the babies who napped after learning the new skill were much better at remembering how to do the skill. Babies who did not nap, showed little evidence of remembering the new skill.

Interestingly, even after a 24-hour delay, the babies who napped where much more likely to show that they remembered the new skill compared to the non-napping babies.

The authors of the study suggest that the time period just before baby goes down for a nap (or night sleep) might be an especially good time for learning. It seems likely that the information learned right before sleep is easily organized and put into memory in the brain while the baby sleeps. This process may even work for adults. If you have ever studied for a test at night and then gone to sleep, you have probably experienced this memory burst the next day.

I have noticed with my little ones, that they are often most verbal and attentive first thing after waking up from sleep. Especially when they are first learning words, you can almost see their little brains "waking up" with an explosion of new words after sleeping. To me, this is first-hand evidence of the important role sleep plays in the helping solidify new memories and learning.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at
ResearchBlogging.orgSeehagen S, Konrad C, Herbert JS, & Schneider S (2015). Timely sleep facilitates declarative memory consolidation in infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112 (5), 1625-9 PMID: 25583469

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