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Toddlers Who Take Naps Retain More Information

Cute child is sleeping in bed
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Does this happen to you, too? Right after lunch we get a bit sleepy; maybe it's because we ate too much or maybe it's because we still long for those days when nap time fell midday.

And apparently those naps were doing more good than simply getting us ready for more playtime outside: They helped us learn faster, according to a new study.

Researchers studied nearly 50 children and their language skills by reading them the same story or three different stories; they were all exposed to the same amount of unfamiliar words. Half of the kids took afternoon naps after they read their stories while the other half did not.

Multiple tests were performed 2.5 hours later, 24 hours later and a week later, and the results were surprising. Research proved that the children who were read a story and then allowed to nap remembered the new words better than those who didn't sleep.

The study, which was published in Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, even showed that the sleepless children never caught up with the other children when it came to remembering and retaining the new words they were exposed to.

While previous studies have shown that reading the same story over and over increased retention, in this case, when learning words from multiple stories, sleep significantly helped, increasing language learning and memory.

This study is especially important, today, as many children are not sleeping enough. Dr. Jessica Horst, a psychologist and lead author, says, "Many preschool children take an afternoon nap, yet classroom naps are increasingly being curtailed and replaced due to curriculum demands." She says that such policies are doing our kids a disservice.

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