Can naps help children learn?

Most young children stop napping sometime in toddlerhood or during the preschool years, either due to personal preference or a lack of naptime in the schedule. Although 85 percent of children age 2 nap daily or almost daily, that number drops to just 15 percent by age 5. Although children who get a sufficient amount of sleep during the night (about 11 hours each night) may seem to manage just fine without a daytime nap, studies show there are significant benefits for learning and cognitive function when children rest during the day.

One study of children ages 3 to 5 years found that an afternoon nap improved their recall of items in a memory game by about 10 percent. The greatest benefits were demonstrated by children who napped regularly (five or more days each week). A study of 16-month-old children found significant differences in word-learning between those who napped and those who didn’t. And another study of children between the ages of 6 months and 1 year had similar results: those who napped performed better in memory assessment.“

Daytime napping,” theorizes Elizabeth Pantley, child sleep expert and author of The No-Cry Nap Solution, “may play a role in learning by helping to convert new information into a more permanent place in the memory.” And naps, she suggests, “allow a child midday pauses to store new information and make room for the remainder of the day’s learning.” 

For children who are unable or unwilling to sleep during the day, a quiet hour is a good substitute. In addition to staving off the crankies, it may support your child in processing the information he’s gaining from the world around him. 

For more on napping, click here.

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