Sleep helps infants learn

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27 Mar 2015

Sleep helps infants learn

There might be more to the saying “sleeping like a baby” than we originally thought. The deep slumber that so many of us envy is actually helping infants’ brains to develop.

Two recent studies have further explored the idea that while babies nap they are reprocessing everything they learnt beforehand. Both studies finished with similar results, concluding that sleep plays a large role in memory organisation in an infant’s brain.


The first study, conducted by researchers from the University of Tubingen and scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, was published in the Nature Communication Journal. It looked at infants from 9–16 months-old and found that those who slept after the training session remembered the names of the individual objects they were shown, while those who were kept awake didn’t. (Read the story in Science Daily here.)


The second study, by researchers from the University of Sheffield and Ruhr University Bochum, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It found napping helps infants retain new behaviours. Results were similar to the first study, with the infants who napped after learning the behaviour remembering it while those who stayed awake didn’t retained the memory. (Read the story in Science Daily here.)


Other findings:

  • The best time for infants to learn new information is just before they have a sleep.
  • Flexible nap times can help learning.
  • Naps shorter than 30 minutes were too short to help learning.