For young children and teenagers, not getting enough sleep can have bad effects, such as irritability, stress, learning problems, and low motivation. But a recent study shows that afternoon naps are a great way of avoiding these negative impacts.
The study, published in the journal Sleep, charted the afternoon nap habits of 3,819 elementary school children in China. The children, who were followed over a period of several years, were between 10 and 12 years old; most previous research had focused on younger children.
The researchers measured the kids’ weekly nap frequency and duration, and also collected information about their behavioral and academic achievement. In addition, the researchers asked the children to answer questions about their self-assessed levels of grit, self-control, and happiness. Some of the children also took IQ tests, and physical exams measured the kids’ body mass index and glucose levels.
Results: more naps means greater benefits
The study found that afternoon naps correlate significantly with more happiness, more grit, more self-control, higher verbal IQs, and better academic achievement. And the longer the average nap duration, the greater the benefits.
The strongest findings were associated with academic achievement, said co-author Adrian Raine: “Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6% increase in academic performance in Grade 6,” he said.
Sleep deficiency and daytime sleepiness affect up to 20% of all children, said lead author Jianghong Liu.
In the United States, napping is not a common feature in elementary school. But in China, afternoon naps continue all the way up to high school.
The researchers say that introducing daytime naps to U.S. schools might be a novel way of addressing the growing push for later school start times. Daytime naps would also be a much simpler intervention than rescheduling the entire school day.
Study: “Midday napping in children: associations between nap frequency and duration across cognitive, positive psychological well-being, behavioral, and metabolic health outcomes,” doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsz126 (link)
Authors: Jianghong Liu, Rui Feng, Xiaopeng Ji, Naixue Cui, Adrian Raine, Sara C Mednick
Published in: Sleep, Volume 42, Issue 9, September 2019
Photo: by Civalias Kune on Unsplash.
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