Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Babies’ Naps May be Key to Learning

To most people, the sight of a napping baby is a calm, peaceful one. But a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that there’s actually a lot going on beneath the surface.

In the study, researchers performed specific actions in front of babies 6 to 12 months old. Then some of the babies napped for varying times while others didn’t sleep at all. Four hours later, only the babies who had gotten the chance to sleep demonstrated that they remembered the actions. In fact, researchers discovered something even more interesting: The optimal duration of a nap for learning seemed to be 30 minutes or more. Babies who caught quick catnaps showed much poorer memories for what they’d seen than babies who slept for at least half an hour.

The researchers believe that naps shield babies’ brains from additional incoming stimuli, allowing them to fully process what they have seen and experienced. This study helps to explain why babies need so much sleep, so often; not only are their bodies growing, their brains are hard at work making sense of a world that is new to them.

photo credit: Bridget Coila via flickr cc.

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