The importance of sleep is well documented. For example, it is common knowledge that lack of sleep can significantly affect people’s performance at work. They become sluggish and their reflexes slow down. And in children, lack of sleep makes them grumpy and more prone to tantrums. Past studies of schoolchildren also revealed that lack of sleep affect their performance at school. But what about babies and toddlers? Does sleep affect their learning?
Most parents would tell you that, of course, it would. But what do parents know? They only look after their toddlers nearly twenty-four hours a day. That hardly gives them expert status. We need hard evidence. We need studies from experts, and it doesn’t matter if their closest experience with toddlers is looking at pictures of babies sporting bandana bibs appearing cool in the arms of their celebrity parents. That fact can only benefit their conclusion, as they look at it without prejudice. But there are very few published studies that specifically looked at how sleep help toddlers’ brain power. Well, until now.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst decided that it would be worthwhile spending some time to find out. So, they braved the world of troublesome threes, frustrating fours and fascinating fives. After gruelling months of studying 40 toddlers, (their patience reaching nearly breaking point, and ears constantly ringing), they found that an afternoon nap boosts the toddlers’ memory. In fact, the toddlers remember 10% of information they were tested on after they had a nap, than when they didn’t rest. More significantly, the effect doesn’t just last for the day; it carries on until the next day.
Researchers also monitored 14 children in the sleep lab, and they found that while the children are having a nap, the parts of their brain in-charge of learning and information integration, become more active.
In a statement regarding its finding, lead researcher, Rebecca Spencer, advised that parents should encourage their children to nap. So, if you want to raise a little Einstein, forget buying all those over-priced educational games for toddlers, just put them to bed after lunch and get some peace and quiet.