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Your Toddler

Naps Help Preschoolers With Language Skills

2:00

Naptime for a toddler or preschooler is a welcomed respite for many parents and caretakers, but it may also provide an important benefit when it comes to a child’s ability to understand words and their meanings, according to a new study.

Researchers assessed 39 youngsters who were all 3 years old and found those who napped after learning new verbs had a better understanding of the words 24 hours later.

"There's a lot of evidence that different phases of sleep contribute to memory consolidation, and one of the really important phases is slow-wave sleep, which is one of the deepest forms of sleep," said study co-author Rebecca Gomez. She is principal investigator of the University of Arizona's Child Cognition Lab.

"What's really important about this phase is that essentially what the brain is doing is replaying memories during sleep, so those brain rhythms that occur during slow-wave sleep ... are actually reactivating those patterns -- those memories -- and replaying them and strengthening them," Gomez said in a university news release.

What if your child doesn’t have the opportunity to catch a few winks during the day? Researchers noted that parents shouldn’t worry about it. The most important thing is that children get the proper amount of overall sleep. Preschoolers should get 10 to 12 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.

"We know that when children don't get enough sleep it can have long-term consequences," including poor performance on mental skill tests, Gomez said.

If you know that your child isn’t getting enough sleep at night, then naps become more significant.

"It's important to create opportunities for children to nap -- to have a regular time in their schedule that they could do that," Gomez said.

In the study, the investigators chose to test the children on how well they learned and understood verbs rather than nouns because action words are typically more difficult to grasp than names, such as "Mommy" or "doggie," which are often the first words kids learn.

In general, naps provide a variety of benefits for toddlers and preschoolers. They help children from becoming overtired, which not only takes a toll on their moods but may also make it harder for them to fall asleep at night.

Crucial physical and mental development is going on during this growth stage and naps help children with much-needed down time for rejuvenation.

For toddlers and preschoolers, sticking to a naptime schedule can be challenging. Though many do still love their nap, others don't want to miss out on a minute of the action and will fight sleep even as their eyes are closing. In this case, don't let naptime become a battle — you can't force your child to sleep, but you can insist on some quiet time. Let your child read books or play quietly in his or her room. Parents are often surprised by how quickly quiet time can lead to sleep time — but even if it doesn't, at least your child is getting some much-needed rest. If your child has given up daytime naps, consider adjusting to an earlier bedtime.

The study findings were published in the journal, Child Development.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, https://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/child-development-news-124/naps-may-sharpen-a-preschooler-s-language-skills-719550.html

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/naps.html#

Your Child

Naps Help Preschoolers Learn Better

2.00 to read

There are two things adults envy about youngsters – their bountiful energy and their naps.

A new study says that those afternoon siestas that many preschoolers enjoy are not a waste of time.  In fact, a daily nap may improve their ability to learn by improving their memory skills.

Preschooler’s brains are busy. On a daily basis they are processing new and exciting information. Their brains are storing the input from these experiences in short-term storage areas said Rebecca Spencer, lead study author and a neuroscientist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

"A nap allows information to move from temporary storage to more permanent storage, from the hippocampus to the cortical areas of the brain," she said. "You've heard the phrase, 'You should sleep on it.' Well, that's what we're talking about: Children need to process some of the input from the day."

Many of the nation's preschoolers put in longer days than do their working parents, arriving at school as early as 6:30 a.m. and getting picked up after 5 p.m., Spencer said. "We're all short on sleep, and the kid's sleep is affected by the parents' schedules," she said.

For the study, the researchers taught 40 children from six preschools in western Massachusetts a visual-spatial memory game in the morning. The children were asked to remember where nine to 12 different pictures were located on a grid.

During the afternoon, children were either encouraged to nap or to stay awake. Naps lasted about 80 minutes. Later in the afternoon and the following morning, delayed recall was tested between both groups -- children who were encouraged to sleep and those who were kept awake.

The researchers found that although the children performed similarly in the morning, when their retention was fresh, children forgot significantly more when they had not taken a nap. Those who had slept remembered 10 percent more than those who were kept awake. The next day, the kids who had napped the previous afternoon scored better than those who hadn't napped. The data showed that a child doesn't recover the memory benefit from nighttime sleep, the researchers said.

To better understand whether memories were actively processed during naps, the researchers took 14 preschoolers to a sleep lab for polysomnography, a sleep study that shows changes in the brain. The children took naps for about 70 minutes. The napping children showed signs of signals being sent to long-term memory from the brain's hippocampus.

"Thus, there was evidence of a cause-and effect relationship between signs that the brain is integrating new information and the memory benefit of a nap," Spencer said.

The study was published in the September issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Spencer is concerned about the trend in many public preschools to discontinue naps. She said naps need to be put back into the preschool day, and she wants to see exploration of ways to enhance the napping experience -- with darkened rooms and comfortable cots or pads, for example.

What’s the bottom line? "Naps are not wasted time," Spencer said.

Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_140919.html

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