Are baby naps the key to better memories?
Babies and infants who enjoy daily naps may grow up to have a better memory and learning ability, according to scientists.
They carried out a study involving 216 babies, who took part in trials to see whether napping affected their memory for a new activity.
The babies first watched the researchers taking a mitten off a hand puppet, shaking it, and putting it back on. Half had a nap shortly afterwards and half did not.
Babies who had the nap were able to mimic more of the activities when they played with the hand puppet four hours later. This was also true when the babies were tested 24 hours after being shown the puppets. This may suggest napping shortly after a new activity or event helps to consolidate that memory.
The researchers speculate sleep may help “strengthen” the impact of recent memories as they are stored in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with long-term memory retention.
The study suggests napping is important for memory in babies. While sleep is important for memory in adults, this study was only in infants, so you can’t use it as an excuse if caught napping at work.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Ruhr University Bochum in Germany and the University of Sheffield.