New research suggests fourth, fifth, and sixth graders who nap during the school day are better behaved, smarter, and happier.

By Libby Ryan
June 03, 2019
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June 3, 2019

While falling asleep in class years past kindergarten could earn a child detention, a new study suggests structured naptime in school could help elementary and middle school kids succeed.

Research published in the journal SLEEP found a connection between a midday nap and increased happiness, better behavior, and higher IQ for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. In fact, adding a nap to a school schedule even improved students’ grades.

“Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6% increase in academic performance in Grade 6,” co-author and University of Pennsylvania neuroscientist Adrian Raine said in a press release. “How many kids at school would not want their scores to go up by 7.6 points out of 100?”

The study showed that about 20 percent of all kids are dealing with some sort of sleep deficiency, often leading to drowsiness during school hours. So the sleep researchers tracked the schedules of 3,000 kids ages 10, 11, and 12 to see what happened when they got to nap during the day. They found that students who napped had more self-control and grit, higher happiness, and IQs, and overall better academic achievement.

This theory likely isn’t a surprise to many parents and doctors who have been calling for a more sleep-friendly schedule in schools for years. Taking adolescents’ realistic bedtimes into account (after extracurriculars, homework, social media, and TV), early school start times often mean kids get less than the recommended amount of sleep per night.

And since changing school start times is complicated—even parents don’t agree on whether the school day schedule should change—could napping be the solution? More research is needed, but the U.S. could possibly take cues from countries like China (where kids and adults nap frequently) and Spain (home of the famous siesta) and incorporate a snooze into the day.

“The more students sleep during the day, the greater the benefit of naps,” University of California Irvine sleep researcher Sara Mednick said in a press release. Study co-author Jianghong Liu added, "The midday nap is easily implemented, and it costs nothing."

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