The University of Arizona (USA) published a research in January 2017 about how napping can help children learn languages. Learning new words and memorizing them takes a lot of work for a small child. The research results show that especially deep sleep helps us remember new information. Already 10 hours of sleep a day has a significant role in helping us to memorize what we have learned. The research also shows that naps might have an important role in memorizing new information.
39 children, aged 3 years, participated in the research. Some of these children were used to napping four times a week or even more often. Instead, some children did not nap at all. Children aged 3 years usually have one nap during the day or no nap at all.
Sleeping helps memory
The research group divided children into two groups. Both groups were introduced to two made up verbs (blicking, rooping). In addition, children got to see two videos where these two made up verbs were demonstrated. Usually children are found having more difficulty learning verbs than nouns. When both groups had been introduced to the two new verbs and they had seen the videos demonstrating the verbs, one of the groups went for a nap. They were supposed to have at least a half-an-hour nap. The other study group did not take a nap afterwards.
24 hours later, both groups rewatched the two videos in which the two made up verbs were introduced. This time there were new actors in the videos. The children's task was to tell which video demonstrated the verb "blicking" and which video demonstrated the verb "rooping". These experiments showed, that those children who took a nap after the first class were more likely to remember these new verbs than those children who did not take a nap.
Our brain repeats learned things and helps us memorize them while we are sleeping. During nap time, children's brain gets a break and gets a chance to process all stimuli that children are exposed to during the first part of the day. In addition to learning, napping also helps us calm down. During the kindergarten day, children's stress hormone, cortisol, is usually high. When children can calm down and take a nap during the day, they can concentrate better during the afternoon.
Sandoval, M., Leclerc, J., Gomez, R.L. Words to Sleep On: Naps Facilitate Verb Generalization in Habitually and Nonhabitually Napping Preschoolers. (2017) University of Arizona.