While most children stop napping at around the age of two or three, a new study suggests that a daytime snooze may be beneficial to children right up until the age of five.
Researchers from Macquarie University in Australia found that daytime naps can benefit children’s ability to map letters to sounds – an important indicator of early reading skills.
‘Having a nap after learning might facilitate the capacity to utilize newly learned information in a new task,’ said Hua-Chen Wang, Lecturer in the School of Education at Macquarie University.
‘We found a positive nap effect on children’s learning of letter-sound mappings, and in particular, using that knowledge to read unfamiliar words.’
Researchers from Macquarie University in Australia found that daytime naps can benefit children’s ability to map letters to sounds – an important indicator of early reading skills (stock image)
Why are girls better than boys at reading?
Research shows that girls typically score better than boys in standardised literacy tests.
The trend is seen as early as age 10 and continues until the age of 18.
Previous research has shown women and men use their brains differently.
Girls use both brain hemispheres for reading and writing, while boys typically rely on just one.
Boys are also exhibit more disruptive behaviours than girls in the classroom.
They are more likely to be inattentive and interrupt teachers.
Scientists also suggest that reading and language are seen as feminine skills, even from a young age.
This means boys are less likely than girls to push to improve these skills.
While previous research has shown that letter-sound mapping in preschool is linked with later reading success, until now, little has been known about the relationship between sleep and literacy skills.
In the new study, 32 three-to-five-year-old children from two daycare centres in Sydney were studied.
The children napped regularly and were not formally taught letter names or sounds at the daycare centre.
Each child participated in seven sessions over two to four weeks, starting with a pre-test to establish their baseline levels of letters and sounds.
Following this initial analysis, the children were given letter-sound mapping training, held a week apart under both ‘nap’ and ‘no-nap’ conditions.
To assess their learning, the children were tested both after a nap and following a period of wakefulness with questions such as ‘Which sound does the letter C make?’ and ‘Here’s Tav and Cav, which one is /kav/?’
The results revealed that children performed better on the tests following a daytime nap, with the effect maintained through to the following day.
While the study was carried out at daycare centres to make the children feel more comfortable, the researchers acknowledge that this does mean that they were unable to measure physiological factors, such as rapid eye movement (REM) in the youngsters as the slept.
While previous research has shown that letter sound mapping in preschool is linked with later reading success, until now, little has been known about the relationship between sleep and literacy skills (stock image)
In future studies, the team hopes to assess these factors to see how they are related to the sleep benefits.
‘The research provides initial evidence that naps facilitate the acquisition and application of letter-sound mappings, abilities that are crucial to early reading development,’ said Anne Castles, Professor of Psychological Studies at Macquarie University.
‘These findings may have implications for creating the optimal conditions for the acquisition of this fundamental literacy skill in preschool children.’
CAN YOU LEARN WHILE YOU NAP?
It is the perfect learning shortcut, to play a language tape or revision recording at night while you are asleep.
But those desperately hoping the information will go in as they snooze may be disappointed.
Scientists have previously found that the brain does take in what it hears during REM sleep – the time spent mostly dreaming, usually in the morning before we wake up.
Leaving a tape running overnight is probably counter-productive as information gained in deep sleep can be completely lost.
French researchers found that sound played during certain parts of deep sleep may make information harder to learn when you wake up than if you had never heard it before.
That is thought to be because the brain is busy erasing memories at this time, and the new knowledge is dumped along with them.
In a study published by experts from PSL Research University in Paris in August 2017, researchers tested sleep learning by playing 20 participants white noise, which contained patterns of sound.
The sounds heard during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep were remembered by these people when they woke up.
They found it easier to identify the white noise which had repeated sounds in it because they had heard it while asleep.
But the noise played while people were in deep sleep, which makes up almost a third of our slumbers, was forgotten.