Midday nap improves IQ and academic performance in children

Children who nap are happier, excel academically, and have fewer behavioral problems – a Penn study of nearly 3,000 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in China revealed strong connections between 30 to 60 minutes of shuteye at least three days a week and positive outcomes in a handful of areas.

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.

Source: UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA.



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