A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that babies who took an extended nap after learning new behaviors are able to retain new skills better than babies who did not sleep.
The researchers showed 216 babies between six and 12 months old how to remove a mitten from a puppet. After learning their skills, a group of infants napped for at least 30 minutes within four hours.
The rested babies were matched with a control group that stayed awake. Both groups were then given the opportunity to recreate the new skill both four hours and 24 hours after learning how to take off the mitten. Researchers found that only babies who took a 30-minute nap or longer retained the memories of the behavior, even after 24 hours. The study also found that flexible napping schedules based around daily schedules could help improve learning for babies.
“Until now, people have presumed that the best time for infants to learn is when they are wide-awake, rather than when they are starting to feel tired, but our results show that activities occurring just before infants have a nap can be particularly valuable and well-remembered,” said Jane Herbert of the University of Sheffield.
Now, researchers will look at if or how the quality of memory is affected by extended naps.