Babies Who Nap for Half an Hour have Better Memories and Learn Faster, Scientists Claim

If you’re trying for an SG50 baby, this latest research is something you might want to consider.

A daytime nap is an essential part of every baby’s routine.

It allows newborns and toddlers the downtime they need to cope with crucial physical and mental development that happens in a child’s early years.

But scientists now believe daytime naps are also vital in helping to boost a baby’s memory.

The first study of its kind, carried out by a team at the University of Sheffield and Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, has identified a link between sleep and babies’ development in their first year of life.

Their findings reveal half an hour’s nap can boost a baby’s memory, helping them retain the new skills they have learned.

The study focused on 216 healthy six to 12-month-old infants, and tested their ability to recall newly learned skills.

The babies taking part were shown how to remove and manipulate a mitten from a hand puppet, and were given the opportunity to reproduce these actions after delays of four and 24 hours.

Those infants who did not nap after learning were compared with age-matched babies who napped for at least 30 minutes within four hours of learning new skills.

The experiment found only infants who had napped after the learning activity remembered the new skills while those who hadn’t slept showed no evidence of remembering the new information.

After a 24-hour delay, the babies given naps also showed significantly better recall compared with infants in the no-nap group.

Researcher Dr Jane Herbert, from the University of Sheffield’s department of psychology, said: ‘These findings are particularly interesting to both parents and educationalists because they suggest that the optimal time for infants to learn new information is just before they have a sleep.

The findings reveal babies learn best, retaining more information, just before they sleep

‘Until now people have presumed that the best time for infants to learn is when they are wide-awake, rather than when they are starting to feel tired, but our results show that activities occurring just before infants have a nap can be particularly valuable and well-remembered.’

The scientists also discovered that flexible napping schedules which responded to different daily events could help ensure optimal learning conditions for babies.

Naps shorter than 30 minutes were not found to provide sufficient time for the infants to consolidate their knowledge to a point where it could be retained in the long term.

‘Parents receive lots of advice about what they should and shouldn’t do with their baby’s sleep schedule,’ said Dr Herbert.

‘This study however examined learning opportunities around naturally occurring naps and shows just how valuable activities like reading books with young children just before they go down to sleep can be.’

Past studies have found sleep has an enormous benefit on adult memory.

It has been found to help adults gain new insights in previously encountered problems, or the flexibility to apply existing knowledge to new tasks.

Further research will examine whether sleep not only enhances the quantity of infants’ memory, for example how much is remembered, but also the quality of memory, or how the recollections are used.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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