Despite the fact that midday naps are characteristic of early childhood, very little is understood about the structure and function of these sleep bouts. Given that sleep benefits memory in young adults, it is possible that naps serve a similar function for young children.(Kurdziel, Duclos, & Spencer, 2013)
A group of preschool children were recruited from six preschool classrooms to investigate whether in-class naps benefit declarative learning in preschool children, the researchers (Laura Kurdziel, Kasey Duclos, and Rebecca M. C. Spencer) measured changes in performance on a visuospatial task over a nap and an equivalent interval of wake. Children were required to have normal or corrected-to-normal vision and no present or past diagnosis of disordered sleep.
The study titled ‘Sleep spindles in midday naps enhance learning in preschool children’ shows evidence that classroom naps support learning in preschool children by enhancing memories acquired earlier in the day compared with equivalent intervals spent awake.
According to the study, in order to examine the long-term benefit of having napped, recall was tested once more the following day (24-hour recall).
Additionally, they recorded polysomnography during a laboratory-based nap in a separate group of children to examine relevant nap physiology. They hypothesised that the preschool nap is sufficient for consolidation of newly learned information and that sleep-dependent changes in memory would be associated with specific physiological aspects of sleep.
The results illustrated a benefit of midday naps on learning in the preschool classroom.
The study adds that:
Following a nap, children recalled 10% more of the spatial locations than when they had been kept awake during the nap opportunity. This effect cannot be attributed to differences in alertness or inattention due to nap deprivation because the nap benefit remained the following day, after overnight sleep, which should equate these factors across the two conditions. Thus, the negative effects of nap deprivation on memory consolidation cannot be reversed with overnight sleep.
One of the interesting things about this study is that if paid close attention to, policy makers in education can utalise the results to their advantage for effectiveness in classrooms especially for learners who may be having difficulty retaining information.