Learning new words can be a challenge for any preschooler, but kids who take naps may have an advantage when it comes to developing language skills, suggests a new study.
Researchers at the University of Arizona assessed 39 youngsters who were all 3 years old and found those who napped after learning new verbs had a better understanding of the words 24 hours later.
"There's a lot of evidence that different phases of sleep contribute to memory consolidation, and one of the really important phases is slow-wave sleep, which is one of the deepest forms of sleep," said study co-author Rebecca Gomez. During this phase of sleep, the brain is actually replaying memories, thereby strengthening them.
Despite the findings, parents should not fret if they cannot get their preschooler to nap during the day, the researchers noted. The most important thing is total amount of sleep. Preschoolers should get 10 to 12 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
It is widely accepted that when children do not get enough sleep it can have long-term consequences, including poor performance on mental skill tests. If children do not get enough sleep at night, it is a good idea to encourage them to nap during the day, the study authors suggested.