How Napping Boosts Baby’s Brain

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By Anisa Arsenault, Associate Editor
Updated March 2, 2017
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It’s no surprise that naps are good for growing babies. And we’re willing to bet they ended up being a pretty important part of your college experience too. But wondering if anyone has been able to pinpoint exactly what’s so great about those midday ZZZ’s? Well, a new study published in the  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found they enhanced memory processing. (See? You needed them between classes!)

Full disclosure: this study was only on babies. And the testing process was kind of bizarre. Researchers tested 40 different 6- and 12-month-old babies using a hand puppet with a removable mitten containing a bell. After playing with the child, the tester removed the mitten from the puppet, shook it to demonstrate its sound, placed it back on the puppet’s hand, and then repeated this procedure a few times. Within the next four hours, 19 of the infants took a nap — averaging about 106 minutes long — while the remaining 21 slept for less than 30 minutes. Everyone got a full night’s sleep, and tackled the puppet-mitten game again the next day.

The results? When presented with all the materials, the infants who napped for longer than 30 minutes could reproduce the procedure significantly better than the others. It’s typical — and recommended — that babies 4-12 months old sleep for an additional three or four hours during the day, beyond the 11 or 12 they should log every night. And this is the first time researchers have been able to provide experimental evidence as to why. We’re hoping they find positive evidence for adult naps next.

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