You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that nine times out of 10, your baby is a sunnier, more enjoyable person to be around after she's had a nap. Like the well-fed star of a Snickers commercial. You also have a pretty good idea how those midday snoozes benefit you, namely that you can do anything you want for an hour or two in relative peace. But now researchers have found a new reason to embrace baby's daily catnap: it could boost her memory.
Though the idea isn't new for adults or even older kids, experts weren't sure how daytime sleep affected an infant's ability to retain memories. To find out, a group of scientists split 216 babies aged 6 months or 12 months into two groups. All of the babies were taught how to take mittens off of puppets, then some kiddos napped for 30 minutes while the others stayed up. Afterward, the researchers quizzed the babies two times to see if any of them remembered how to pull off the mittens -- the first time, four hours post-siesta and again 24 hours later.
The results? Only the babies who napped for at least half an hour after the mittens lesson were able to remember what they were taught, even 24 hours later. The findings were published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports HealthDay.
"While people might assume that infants learn best when they are wide awake, our findings suggest that the time just before infants go down for sleep can be a particularly valuable learning opportunity," says study author Sabine Seehagen, a child and adolescent psychology researcher with Ruhr University Bochum in Germany. That's because researchers say evidence suggests the shut-eye helps children retain memories. (After all, who can remember anything when they're tired?)
Though the study's researchers say that napping after learning could help your babe hang on to memories over time, don't start tweaking her nap schedule just yet. More research is needed before concrete guidelines or recommendations are handed down to us parents. Still, I'm curious -- does a study like this one change your approach to baby's nap time? Why or why not?
Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up.Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+
Baby Sleep: All About Nap Time
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