Are you phasing out your preschooler’s naps? You may want to hit the snooze. A new study from the University of Arizona suggests that naptime could help preschool-age children sustain language learning.
Researchers taught 39 typically developing three-year-olds two made-up verbs before putting half down for a 30-minute nap and letting the other half stay awake. After 24 hours, the children were tested on the verbs. The preschoolers who had napped within about an hour after learning the verbs performed better than the non-nappers. Researchers point to slow-wave sleep for creating the learning benefit.
“What’s really important about this phase is that essentially what the brain is doing is replaying memories during sleep, so those brain rhythms that occur during slow-wave sleep and other phases of non-REM sleep are actually reactivating those patterns—those memories—and replaying them and strengthening them,” says study co-author Rebecca Gomez, UA associate professor of psychology, cognitive science, and second language acquisition and teaching.
Don’t worry if you can’t get your preschooler to nap during the day though, says Gomez. The most important thing is that preschool-age children get a total of 10-12 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. If they aren’t getting that sleep at night, create opportunities in their daily schedule for a good nap.