How Naps Can Improve Learning Ability

It's the same routine every day. I go to bed a little too late, and when my alarm goes off and I hit snooze for the umpteenth time, I wish I had gone to bed a little bit earlier. A haze hits me at around three, and again, I regret my bedtime. But despite this, I'll probably go to bed around the same time that night.

I'm sure many people can relate to being trapped in this vicious cycle, and I think we can all agree that we all need to get more sleep in order to be our best mental, emotional, and physical selves. But most likely, work's not just magically going to start later and you're not just magically going to be able to fall asleep whenever you desire.

The answer, according to a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, is napping — and for an extended period of time. When we nap, we do much important learning and memorizing.

Researchers tested forty 6- and 12-month-old infants using a puppet with a removable mitten containing a bell. The researcher engaged the child then removed the mitten and shook it three times to show its sound and movement, then replaced the mitten on the puppet's hand. She repeated the exercise a few times.

For the following four hours, the babies were tucked into their cribs to nap. They slept for an average of 106 minutes, but 21 of the babies slept 30 minutes or less.

The infants were then taken home to resume their usual schedule, and after sleeping soundly for the night, they were brought back to be tested again. The researchers presented the babies with the puppet again to see if they could reproduce the procedure that had been shown to them the day before.

The researchers found that those who took a longer nap after the previous day's training session were much better at recreating the mitten procedure than those who had napped for 30 minutes or less. In other words, the longer the nap, the better the memory.

"This needs further study," the lead author, Sabine Seehagen, told The New York Times, "but maybe babies lose some information if they don't nap after learning. They need a break to work on the information they got. This adds one more reason why it's a good idea to read or do other activities around reading before bedtime."

In today's workplace, taking a midday snooze is generally frowned upon. But with the increasing popularity of nap pods, there is definitely a trend toward more nap acceptance. Previous research has shown that naps boost alertness and productivity, which goes hand-in-hand with the findings of this study, so we think it's time employers take note.

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