Why Your Preschooler Still Needs Naptime

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Updated January 30, 2017
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The latest study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that doing away with naptime actually interferes with your preschooler’s ability to process — and remember — the information they learn in school.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst tested the memory retention skills of 40 preschool students by playing a Memory-like game with them during regular school hours. In one condition, the kids took their regular classroom nap after the Memory game (averaging about 77 minutes of sleep) and in the second condition, kids were kept awake following the Memory game for the same amount of time. Following the 77 minutes of sleep (or no sleep), researchers found that the children who napped remembered 75 percent of what they had learned in the game; a full 10 percent better than kids who went without a nap. The study authors wrote, “While the children performed about the same immediately after learning in both the nap and wake conditions, the children performed significantly better when they napped both in the afternoon and the next day. That means that when they miss a nap, the child cannot recover this benefit of sleep with their overnight sleep. It seems that there is an additional benefit of having the sleep occur in close proximity to the learning.”

Recently, naptime has come under fire, particularly in preschool settings, due to mounting evidence that supports the positive effect that attending preschool has on future school performance. The positive effect on learning has parents and educators wondering if naptime should be replaced with more structured learning. And now,

Rebecca Spencer, Assistant Professor of Psychology at UMass Amherst, however, says that the most recent study provides some of the first scientific evidence in favor of keeping naps in preschool settings for children. “Until now, there was nothing to support teachers who feel that naps can really help young children. There had been no concrete science behind that. We hope these results will be by policy makers and center directors to make educated decisions regarding the nap opportunities in the classrooms. Children should not only be given the opportunity, they should be encouraged to sleep by creating an environment which supports sleep.”

Do you think naptime is important for toddlers in preschool?

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