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Midday Rest for Children

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Children at the Bright Horizons Preschool in Manhattan go down for a nap every afternoon.

A new study shows napping can help improve learning. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts tested the memory skills of 40 preschoolers -- once after the children napped and once after they skipped the midday rest.

"We found the kids who stayed awake forgot 15% of the information they learned in the morning whereas when the kids took a nap during naptime they remembered everything they had learned in the morning," says Prof. Rebecca Spencer of UMASS Amherst.

Researchers measured little bursts of activity in the brain called sleep spindles during the children's naps.

"We think these bursts represent markers of plasticity of when the brain is really susceptible to forming new memories."

Researchers say their results answer critics who question the benefit of naps and want them eliminated to make more time for learning.

Teacher Zenobia Shroff notices the difference in her students after they wake up.

"Their social interaction is better. They are happier, less cranky. They participate much more."

And even though some little ones may not want to go to sleep.

"Mako, do you like to nap?"

"No."

"Are naps good or bad?"

"Bad."

Experts say about an hour of napping is all it takes.

Researchers say the children who napped also did better on memory tests the next day, suggesting the results are long lasting.

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