Increasing academic pressure on kids is causing schools and even parents to cut down on nap time. But parents can attest to the fact that a well rested kid is a well- mannered one, because they are less cranky or fussy. But there’s significant benefit besides being well mannered, getting afternoon naps can significantly improve learning for your child.
Before you skip nap time, remember that kids thrive on routine and a regular down-time can help your toddler stay healthy and have a retentive memory .
In 2013, University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers studied 40 youngsters and reported their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The results showed that naps help kids commit what they have learned earlier during the day to memory. In short, naps help kids learn.
The benefit persisted in the afternoon after a nap and into the next day. The study authors say their results suggest naps are critical for memory consolidation and early learning.
When the children were allowed a siesta after lunch they performed significantly better on a visual-spatial tasks in the afternoon and the next day than when they were denied a midday snooze.
The study further reported that following a nap, children recalled 10% more of the information they were being tested on, than they did when they had been kept awake. Close monitoring of 14 additional youngsters who came to the researchers’ sleep lab revealed the processes at work in the brain during sleep.
As the children napped, they experienced increased activity in brain regions linked with learning and integrating new information.
Of course, good learning ability is a direct consequence of retentive memory and this is a major advantage of an afternoon nap for your child.
Lead investigator of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences research, Rebecca Spencer said:
“Essentially we are the first to report evidence that naps are important for preschool children. While older children would naturally drop their daytime sleep, younger children should be encouraged to nap.”
Dr Robert Scott-Jupp, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, also said:
“It’s been known for years that having a short sleep can improve the mental performance of adults, for example doctors working night shifts. Up until now, no-one has looked at the same thing in toddlers. This is important, because pre-school nurseries are divided on whether they should allow their children a nap.
Toddlers soak up a huge amount of information everyday as they become increasingly inquisitive about the world around them and begin to gain independence.
To be at their most alert toddlers need about 11-13 hours of sleep a day, giving their active minds a chance to wind down and re-charge, ready for the day ahead. We now know that a daytime sleep could be as important as a nighttime one. Without it, they would be tired, grumpy, forgetful and would struggle to concentrate.”
Overall, if you do not encourage your child to take routine daily naps, you may unknowingly be creating conditions that lead to less learning rather than more.