Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from an increase in academic performance


Ask just about any parent whether napping has benefits and you’ll likely hear a resounding “yes,” particularly for the child’s mood, energy levels, and school performance.

New research from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Irvine, published in the journal Sleep backs up that parental insight.

A study of nearly 3,000 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders ages 10-12 revealed a connection between midday napping and greater happiness, self-control, and grit; fewer behavioral problems; and higher IQ, the latter particularly for the sixth graders.

The most robust findings were associated with academic achievement, says Penn neurocriminologist Adrian Raine, a co-author on the paper.

“Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6% increase in academic performance in Grade 6,” he says.

“How many kids at school would not want their scores to go up by 7.6 points out of 100?”

Sleep deficiency and daytime drowsiness are surprisingly widespread, with drowsiness affecting up to 20% of all children, says lead author on the study Jianghong Liu, a Penn associate professor of nursing and public health.

What’s more, the negative cognitive, emotional, and physical effects of poor sleep habits are well-established, and yet most previous research has focused on preschool age and younger.

That’s partially because in places like the United States, napping stops altogether as children get older.

In China, however, the practice is embedded into daily life, continuing through elementary and middle school, even into adulthood.

So, Liu and Raine, with Penn biostatistician Rui Feng, UC Irvine sleep researcher Sara Mednick and others, turned to the China Jintan Cohort Study, established in 2004 to follow participants from toddlerhood through adolescence.

From each of 2,928 children, the researchers collected data about napping frequency and duration once the children hit Grades 4 through 6, as well as outcome data when they reached Grade 6, including psychological measures like grit and happiness and physical measures such as body mass index and glucose levels.

They also asked teachers to provide behavioral and academic information about each student.

They then analyzed associations between each outcome and napping, adjusting for sex, grade, school location, parental education, and nightly time in bed.

It was the first comprehensive study of its kind, Mednick says.

“Many lab studies across all ages have demonstrated that naps can show the same magnitude of improvement as a full night of sleep on discrete cognitive tasks.

Here, we had the chance to ask real-world, adolescent schoolchildren questions across a wide range of behavioral, academic, social, and physiological measures.”

Predictably, she adds, “the more students sleep during the day, the greater the benefit of naps on many of these measures.”

Though the findings are correlational, the researchers say they may offer an alternative to the outcry from pediatricians and public health officials for later school start times.

“The midday nap is easily implemented, and it costs nothing,” says Liu, particularly if accompanied by a slightly later end to the day, to avoid cutting into educational time.

“Not only will this help the kids, but it also takes away time for screen use, which is related to a lot of mixed outcomes.”

Future directions could look at why, for example, children with better-educated parents nap more than children with less educated parents, or whether, by investigating the influence of culture and personality, nap interventions could be advanced on a global scale.

Ideally, a randomized control trial would get at causation questions like whether napping leads to better academic achievement or whether they’re linked in some other way. However, none of this is yet in the works.

For now, the researchers say they hope the results of this current study can inform future interventional work that targets adolescent sleepiness.

A person can gain a lot of benefits from taking an afternoon nap. Just by taking daily afternoon naps, a person’s quality of life can increase.

According to Scott (2008), taking a nap for 20 minutes in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 minutes of oversleeping in the morning. Nap is closely related to a healthy life because it can increase work productivity and release stress.

Ackerman (2009) said that napping benefits both mental and overall health. People seem to think that napping is only for children. However, adults need to take a daily nap as much as children do. Milner, Fogel & Cote (2006) said naps improve motor learning performance. Nap is a very good way to fill up the energy.

It is believed that if a person takes an afternoon nap, the person’s energy level and intellectual skills can last up to 2 days (Dhand & Sohal, 2006).

Naps can decrease stress which can give a better quality of life to people. Most people will feel sleepy in the afternoon. Dhand & Sohal (2006) and Scott (2008) said that taking a nap is one way to become more alert and to reduce stress.

Scott (2008) further said that cognitive functioning can improve after an afternoon nap. Hamburg (2008) stated, taking a nap can increase or improve the memory and mental performance.

In addition to that, Lovata and Lack (2010) also found, naps can reduce sleepiness as well as improve cognitive and psychological motor performance.

In an experiment done by Karni (2008), it was found that taking a nap in the afternoon improves the brain activity.

Two groups of participants were involved in the experiment. The first group was requested to take an afternoon nap while the second group stayed awake during the afternoon.

The result showed that, the first group of participants improved in their task by that evening when compared to the second group.

The second did not present any improvement in their task. However, after a night’s sleep the two groups were back at the same level (Karni, 2008).

Lovata and Lack (2010) also said that people who take regular naps seem to show more benefits than those who rarely nap. According to Ackerman (2009), in the past, people who take naps in the afternoon would be called lazy.

However, researches have proven that naps can increase alertness, creativity, mood, and productivity in the remaining hours of the day (Milner, Fogel & Cote, 2006; Lovata and Lack, 2006; Brooks and Lack, 2006; Karni, 2008).

On top of that, napping is said to improve the memory as well (Karni, 2008). On top of that, napping is said to enhance the memory and can give greater flexibility in learning (Gomz, Bootzin and Nadel, 2006; Karni, 2008).

Naps can also enhance short term memory (Lovata and Lack, 2006). Other than that, lack of sleep can lead to diabetes (Kollias, 2009).

People who are suffering from obesity are said to have less slow-wave sleep due to sleep-disordered breathing. This could lead them to diabetes.

Therefore, Kollias (2009) believed that napping in the afternoon can help decrease the percentage to get diabetes. Scott (2008) said that sleep keeps people healthy, mentally sharp, and able to cope with stress more effectively. Lack of sleep has negative side effects.

That is why napping is important.

Even though naps take only few minutes, but the effects of naps give a lot of benefits.

Another study by Brooks and Lack (2006) found napping for 10 minutes seemed to improve the participants’ alertness directly after waking up and they maintained the alertness for 2.5 hours.

According to the National Sleep Foundation (2009), napping can give relaxation and rejuvenation to a person. People who are suffering from illness such as narcolepsy are given scheduled napping by doctors.

This can be inferred that napping can give positive health benefits to people, which can contribute to a better quality of life-

More information: Jianghong Liu et al, Midday napping in children: Associations between nap frequency and duration across cognitive, positive psychological well-being, behavioral, and metabolic health outcomes, Sleep (2019). DOI: 10.1093/sleep/zsz126

Journal information: Sleep
Provided by University of Pennsylvania


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