13/01/2015 06:46 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 06:12 BST

Baby Sleep: Regular Naps Key To Learning And Memory Development


Babies spend a large proportion of their first year asleep (not always when we want them to, of course!), and now a new study has proved there is a link between all that sleep and a baby's development.

In fact, regular naps are key to helping babies learn and remember, according to the new research.

The findings come from a research team at the University of Sheffield, which studied 216 babies up to 12 months old, to see if there was a direct link between sleep and a baby's ability to retain facts, knowledge and events.

The study indicated that babies who take regular naps are more likely to remember skills they have learnt.

Researchers taught the group of babies three new tasks, all involving hand puppets. After the session, half of the babies slept within four hours, while the rest either had no sleep or napped for fewer than 30 minutes.

The next day, all the babies were encouraged to repeat the tasks.

The results found, on average, that one-and-a-half tasks could be repeated by the babies that had a substantial sleep. The babies that didn't sleep, or slept for less than half an hour, could not repeat the tasks.

Dr Jane Herbert, from the department of psychology at the University of Sheffield, said:

"Those who sleep after learning learn well, those not sleeping don't learn at all.

"These findings are particularly interesting because they suggest the optimal time for infants to learn new information is just before they have a sleep."

Dr Herbert cited reading books with children before bed as an example of 'sleepy learning'.

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