It may be challenging to get your kids to take regular naps, but according to new research, the benefits are amazing.
Sleep cures all manner of ailments, and if you’re a parent of young kids, then you know exactly how beneficial a nap can be for your little one’s mood and behaviour. Now, there are facts to back up the long-term benefits for school children, thanks to research carried out by University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and University of California (UC), Irvine, and published in SLEEP journal.
This unique study looked at the napping habits of nearly 3,000 primary school children, aged ten to 12 years. And a definite link was found between regular napping and happiness, self-control, grit, fewer behavioural problems and higher IQ. According to Adrian Raine, Penn neuro-criminologist and co-author on the paper, the strongest findings were associated with academic achievement. “Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6 percent 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?”
Are our children tired?
Jianghong Liu, Penn Associate Professor of nursing and public health and lead author on the report, says that sleep deficiency and daytime drowsiness are surprisingly common, with drowsiness affecting up to 20 percent of all children. And while the negative effects of poor sleeping habits are well known, research is mostly carried out on younger and preschool age children. This is partly because, in countries such as the USA and also Australia, many kids stop napping altogether as they get older.
However, in China, napping during the day is an established part of everyday life and continues into adulthood. So, Liu and Raine, together with their research team, went to examine children’s napping habits at the China Jintan Cohort Study.
“It was the first comprehensive study of its kind,” says Sara Mednick, UC Irvine sleep researcher. “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 behavioural, academic, social, and physiological measures.”
Help, my kids don’t nap!
I can’t imagine my kids napping three times a week, especially as they both stopped regular day sleeps at about two to three years of age. I would be hard pressed to get them to nap now. But maybe if it was implemented as part of the school day, as this research suggests with everyone participating, then it might become an excellent habit. And if it ultimately leads to their greater happiness, self-control and academic success, it’s certainly worth a try!