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60-Second Science

Preschool Z's Make Good Memories

In a study, preschoolers who take a midday nap retained recently learned information better. Sophie Bushwick reports.

The midday nap is a preschool tradition. But is it necessary? Some preschools plan to eliminate this downtime to fit in more teaching. Which could come at the expense of learning. Because a study suggests that the snooze may help kids retain information they learned earlier in the day. The work is published in PLOS ONE. [Laura Kurdziel et al., Sleep spindles in midday naps enhance learning in preschool children]

To see how naps affect academic performance, researchers taught 40 preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 6 to perform a memory task. After a few hours of break time the children either stayed awake or got to nap, sleeping for an average of 77 minutes.

Although napping made no significant difference to feelings of sleepiness, it did help enhance memory. When tested later in the day, students who had rested performed better. Even the next day, the children who had napped after the initial lesson still retained more information.

The benefit was greatest for students who took naps regularly, not just during the study. Which suggests schools may want to keep sleep on the syllabus.

—Sophie Bushwick

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]   
 

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