More Sleep Equals Smarter Children, Study Suggests

Source: Lee Rannals for
February 27, 2013Image Credit:

A new study by researchers from the University of Tübingen’s Institute for Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology reinforces how necessary sleep is for a child’s brain, even more so than adults.

Researchers wrote in the journal Nature Neuroscience about how children’s brains turn learned material into active knowledge as they sleep and how their brains do it even more effectively than an adult’s.

Past studies have shown sleeping after learning helps long-term storage of the material learned, because during sleep, memory is turned into a form that makes future learning easier. When you are sleeping, implicit knowledge becomes explicit and becomes more easily transferred to other areas.

According to the researchers, children need to get deep sleep for longer durations because of the massive amounts of data they take in each day.

The team studied the ability of a child to form explicit knowledge through an implicitly-learned motor task. During the study, children between eight and 11-years old learned to guess the predetermined series of actions. After a night of sleep, or a day awake, the team tested the children’s memories.

Researchers found after a good night’s sleep, all age groups that took part in the study were able to remember a larger number of elements from the row of numbers than those who had remained awake in the interim.

“In children, much more efficient explicit knowledge is generated during sleep from a previously learned implicit task,” said Dr. Ines Wilhelm of the University of Tübingen’s. “And the children’s extraordinary ability is linked with the large amount of deep sleep they get at night. The formation of explicit knowledge appears to be a very specific ability of childhood sleep, since children typically benefit as much or less than adults from sleep when it comes to other types of memory tasks.”

A child’s brain isn’t the only thing that benefits from a good night’s rest. So does their attitude. A study published in the journal Pediatrics last year found kids who averaged about 27 minutes more sleep at night had fewer behavior issues.

Dr. Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, said as children have trouble coping with day-to-day issues, more sleep affects their relationship with teachers, as well as their peers. She suggested parents shut off their television or electronic devices about a half hour sooner before bedtime than what is already being practiced in the house. Both studies suggest more sleep doesn’t just lead to a less-bratty child, but a smarter one.

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