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Neuroscience For Kids

Naps Improve Memory in Children
December 3, 2013

sleep When you were a small kid, did you ever take naps in school? If you did, you may have been improving your memory as suggested by new research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Researchers had 40 children (~4 years old) play a memory game where they had to remember the location of cartoon images on a grid. The children were given a test immediately after the game to see how many items that could remember. Following this initial test, some kids took naps (~78 minutes) while other kids were kept quietly awake.

Children who took naps were able to remember the location of 10% more items than children who were kept awake. This beneficial effect of napping was observed immediately after a nap and also 24 hours after a nap. Moreover, the boost to memory was greatest in children who were regular nappers.

Electroencephalographic recordings from 14 children while they napped showed that naps consisted mainly of stage 2 and stage 3 non-rapid eye movement sleep; there was almost no rapid eye movement (REM) sleep during a nap. These recordings also revealed that children who had a higher density of sleep spindles had better recall. These sleep spindles may be related to the consolidation of memory.

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Copyright © 1996-2013, Eric H. Chudler, University of Washington