Why do some kids continue being napping addicts for years while others may give it up much sooner? One reason for this is that not all young brains develop at the same rate. In groundbreaking research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Rebecca Spencer, a sleep scientist, and Tracy Riggins, a child psychologist from the University of Maryland, revealed what is going on in kids' brains when they emerge from daytime dozing.
Actually, napping times for young children are like brain gym sessions. There is a relation between nap transitions and underlying memory, and this critical time of brain development is linked to sleep. When young children nap, their brains are busy processing learning and memories. This activity occurs in the hippocampus - an organ that works like a memory storage room - before memories get transferred to a more permanent place. But if napping is so beneficial for learning, why does this practice tend to diminish in children as they grow until it finally stops?
Spencer compares the hippocampus to a bucket: "When the hippocampus is inefficient, it's like having a small bucket. Your bucket is going to fill up faster and overflow, and some memories will spill out and be forgotten. That's what we think happens with the kids that are still napping. Their hippocampus is less mature, and they need to empty that bucket more frequently." As kids' brains develop, their hippocampus becomes more efficient. Their "bucket" grows with them, allowing them to store more memories while they are awake, so they no longer need naps to absorb additional knowledge.
Also, Spencer emphasizes that kids should not be pressured out of their napping phase. She says it's important to let kids who need to nap be allowed to do so. For young children, napping times are like brain workout sessions, which help them reinforce learning and memories. However, not all children are ready to give up this habit at the same age. Such revelations should be very helpful in properly handling napping issues at home as well as in nurseries and preschools.
Picture: Scarlett napping (ChildUp.com)