Under the Hood

Children Who Take Naps Become Smarter, Have Less Behavior Problems

Parents, give your kids more time to nap. A new study offers new information on how taking naps could really improve the mood and performance of children. 

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Irvine found that midday napping could promote greater happiness and self-control and enhance a kid’s IQ and behavior. The findings, published in the journal SLEEP, come from the analysis of data from nearly 3,000 children, ages 10 to 12.

"Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6 percent increase in academic performance in Grade 6," Adrian Raine, co-author of the study and a Penn neurocriminologist, said in a statement.

For the study, Raine and his team collected data from the China Jintan Cohort Study, which started in 2004 and followed children from toddlerhood through adolescence. The researchers opt for China since the country is known to promote napping to kids as well as adults. 

The team analyzed data about napping frequency and duration, psychological measures, physical measures and behavioral and academic information. They followed the children in fourth, fifth and sixth grade. 

"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,” Sara Mednick, a sleep researcher from UC Irvine, said. “Here, we had the chance to ask real-world, adolescent schoolchildren questions across a wide range of behavioral, academic, social, and physiological measures."

She added that children could enjoy more benefits of naps when they spend more time sleeping during the day. Poor sleep habits and daytime drowsiness are known to negatively affect the brain, emotions and physical performance. 

"The midday nap is easily implemented, and it costs nothing… and also takes away time for screen use, which is related to a lot of mixed outcomes," Jianghong Liu, lead author of the study and a Penn associate professor of nursing and public health, said. 

The researchers hope their study would help pediatricians and public health officials push for later school start times to give children the right amount of sleep they need for the day. The findings may also help in creating a new approach to adolescent sleepiness.

Children Sleep Pictured: A sleeping child. Pixabay