Babies spend much of their time sleeping, and this is because sleep is very important for their physical and mental development. One of the latest scientific studies in the field has analyzed the effects of napping in babies between 6 and 12 months, confirming that this beneficial habit helps them to consolidate everything they have learned before going to sleep.
How have they shown it?
The participating babies had to repeat a series of actions with puppets that had been taught to them four hours before. Babies who had slept at least half an hour during that interval obtained better results in the tests and, in addition, kept retaining the information one day after the tests.
This happens, according to the researchers, because during sleep, memories are encoded and transferred from the area of the brain involved in immediate memory – the hippocampus – to the area responsible for long-term memory – the neocortex. “It is possible that in the brain of babies, the hippocampus has a very limited capacity and sleep is their way of downloading information in the neocortex before forgetting it,” explains Sabine Seehagen, a researcher in child and youth psychology at the Ruhr University in Bochum. (Germany) and lead author of the study. Furthermore, the authors of the work, published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Science (PNAS), will conduct new studies to see if sleep also affects, in addition to memory, the way in which babies use the information learned.
Researchers have also reminded that nap has a beneficial effect throughout life. “In addition to helping consolidate and strengthen memory, sleep is used to analyze problems and find new solutions,” says Seehagen. So, the next time your baby takes a nap, take advantage of it too, your brain will thank you!