Washington: Researchers have showed that classroom naps support learning in preschool kids by increasing their memory power.
Sleep researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that kids who napped performed significantly better on a visual-spatial task in the afternoon after a nap and the next day than those who did not nap.
Research psychologist Rebecca Spencer, with students Kasey Duclos and Laura Kurdziel, said that their results suggest naps are critical for memory consolidation and early learning, based on their study of more than 40 preschool children.
For this study, Spencer and colleagues recruited 40 children from six preschools across western Massachusetts.
The researchers taught kids a visual-spatial task, where kids see a grid of pictures and have to remember where different pictures are located. Each child participated in two conditions.
In one condition, the children were encouraged to nap during their regular classroom nap opportunity. Naps lasted an average of 77 minutes as recorded by observers in the classroom.
In the second condition, children were kept awake for the same amount of time. Memory for the game was tested after the nap and wake conditions and again the following day to see whether night time sleep affected performance.
Children forgot significantly more item locations on the memory test when they had not taken a nap (65 percent accuracy), compared to when they did nap (75 percent accuracy). Thus following a nap, children recalled 10 percent more of the test locations than when they had been kept awake.
The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.