Nap time isn't just a break for parents. A new study finds sleep offers important advantages for preschoolers' development.

By Melissa Willets
February 10, 2017
preschooler nap benefits
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Guess what? I'm writing this as my preschooler naps. Shhh! The thing is, she never naps. So when she does, I feel like I'm on vacation!

The truth is, I rarely push her to sleep during the day, because, well, she tells me she doesn't want to. And fighting her is often so not worth it. But a new study published in the journal Child Development finds naps are linked to increased language skills in preschoolers, and that's kinda giving me major motivation to engage in this particular battle with her.

Researchers from the University of Arizona looked at 39 three-year-olds and determined that those who napped after learning new verbs had a better understanding of those words a day 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," explained the study's co-author Rebecca Gomez, adding, "What's really important about this phase is that essentially what the brain is doing is replaying memories during sleep, so those brain rhythms that occur during slow-wave sleep...are actually reactivating those patterns—those memories—and replaying them and strengthening them."

It's enough evidence for me to add nap time back into our schedule! No, no it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that I almost never get a break from kids, kids, kids! Ahem. Anyway, my efforts to get my 3-year-old to snooze during the day may not pay off. She isn't tired every afternoon; just some.

The good news is that, according to researchers, it's the total amount of sleep a child gets in a 24-hour period that really matters. For preschoolers, parents should aim for between 10 and 12 hours.

Wait...darn. My daughter is up. Gotta go. Good luck out there on the nap battlefield!

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.