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When napping makes kids smart


Etired children, tiring children. This adage is well known to teachers. But they could add another, which certainly would be even harder for parents to hear: sleepy children, less intelligent children. You don’t need to be a great researcher to notice that, when your eyes are itchy from sleep, you have more difficulty concentrating, you find yourself rereading the same sentence several times, only to forget it immediately. But, on the scale of the little ones, rest takes on a much more vertiginous dimension from an educational point of view.

During the first year of his life, the infant will gradually move from an ultradian rhythm, where sleep occupies two-thirds of his time, divided between day and night, to a circadian rhythm, based on a cycle of twenty- four o’clock, where he completes his night with a few siestas. During infancy, from 3 to 5 years old, the toddler sleeps another ten to thirteen hours, with a night sleep and an early afternoon nap which will gradually disappear before the age of 6 years.

Lots of mechanics happen while the toddler sleeps

Many mechanisms take place while he sleeps: growth, brain maturation, development of the immune system and the cognitive system. But also the consolidation of learning. Thus, the influence of sleep on learning occurs on two levels. Having slept well provides the child with the optimal cognitive conditions to acquire new knowledge; Sleeping well, after having learned, makes it possible to consolidate them.

A major issue at school

It also works with the nap. A study conducted in 2014 by American psychologists Sophie Williams and Jessica Horst showed its importance in the acquisition of new words. Not only did the 3-year-olds accustomed to a nap retain vocabulary better (compared to those who did not) a few hours after it, but also the next day and seven days later!

“A tired child cannot access new knowledge” – Stéphanie Mazza, professor of neuropsychology

Stéphanie Mazza, professor of neuropsychology at Lyon-I University, is part of the scientific council for national education. In this context, she directed the writing of a booklet entitled Sleep better to learn betterwhich summarizes the state of the search. “Now that all children must go to school from the age of 3, naps in establishments are becoming a major issue.she observes. Because a tired child cannot access new knowledge. »

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