How naps help our children to learn

How naps help our children to learn

Running around all day with a busy schedule can make the entire family tired, especially if your child still relies on naps during the day. It can sometimes be tempting to skip nap time when we are in the middle of running errands, or it is inconvenient for us to head home for a nap. But hindering our children’s sleep can actually have more consequences than just a tired and cranky kid.

Naps never lose importance 

Naps continue be important at any age and stage of life. Even as adults, when we are exhausted, we can also benefit from a quick cat nap in order to improve our focus, concentration, creativity and alertness to name a few! For our growing children, the benefits are huge, aiding physical and mental development, as well as even boosting your child’s memory!

We know that all babies differ in the number of naps they need, and this depends largely on their age. The length, quality and amount of naps a child has, can impact on how well a child may sleep at night. Well-rested babies have shown to respond better to night sleep when there are sufficient naps in place.

As I always talk about, It is important to watch your baby for tired signs as if the ideal time is missed, a baby can develop a second wind where they suddenly seem wide awake and uninterested in napping. This buys them a longer period of alert time before they are ready to fall asleep again and re-entering a tired state. A good routine and nap plan can work with these periods of alertness and tiredness, ensuring the baby is napping at the most appropriate time for them. Again, it’s flexible so if they are showing clear signs of being tired and ready for sleep, abbreviate or eliminate the routine and jump straight to the sleep part.

The science bit

During sleep, our bodies grow recover and restore. These processes are crucial for brain development and memory formation. In order to highlight this, a recent study using young children less than a year old came up with some interesting results. During the study, the children were shown some new and different ways to play with some toys that they hadn’t seen before. After the demonstration, half of the children went and had their usual nap, while the other half were kept up during nap time. When the napping was finished, the children were given the same toys to play with, without any demonstration. The children that had napped, were able to precisely demonstrate the action they had seen prior to the naps. The children that did not take a nap, showed obvious deficits and were largely unable to remember how to play with the particular toys in the exact ways that they were shown!

The study also indicated that even when a child is able to go home and sleep overnight, they still performed poorly with this task the next day. So, what does this mean? It tells us that the children who took a nap, were able to move the short term memory of how to play with those toys, into their long term memory, allowing them to remember and repeat the actions later on. The study also indicated that when a nap is missed, a child cannot compensate their learning with overnight sleep. There also seems to be additional benefit in having sleep occurring in close proximity to the learning in how the information is retained.

So how do naps help? 

Research has shown naps help to move short term memories into longer term ones which researchers suspect may be one of the primary functions of daytime napping in pre-school children!

When we sleep, we process all the experiences that have happened during the day and learn from them. We do this by creating new connections in our brain. During sleep, our memories consolidate which means they transfer from short term to long term memory. This process allows us to increase our cognitive ability enabling us to reason, problem solve, plan, comprehend and learn, creating our IQ…amazing!

I know sometimes in can feel restrictive to have each nap at home day in day out. This post is not designed to make you feel that you can’t go out at nap time, it is simply just trying to highlight the benefits of napping in general and respecting our children’s need for sleep during the day as well as at night.

If you are having problems with your child’s daytime sleep. Please contact us and request a free 15 minute consultation to find out how we can help your unique situation.


Hi! I’m Jen, Internationally Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant, Registered Nurse for over 13 years and Mother to three beautiful children. I absolutely love supporting families to thrive and develop sleep confidence for themselves and their babies

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