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Children Need Both Naps and Overnight Sleep to Process Emotional Memories

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Rebecca Spencer PhD Associate Professor Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences University of Massachusetts

Dr. Rebecca Spencer

Dr. Rebecca Spencer PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
University of Massachusetts

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We know that in young adults, sleep contributes to emotion processing. We wondered if naps work similarly for preschool children.  To look at this, we had children learn an emotional memory task and then either take a nap or stay awake.  We then tested their memory after that interval and again the next day.

We found that when children napped, they had better memory for those items the next day than if they did not nap.  That the naps seem to support memory (even if in a delayed fashion) seems consistent with the observation of parents and preschool teachers that children are often emotionally dysregulated if they do not nap.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This work suggests that children need both naps and overnight sleep in order to fully process emotional memories.  This suggests that day time naps are important at this age.  While that may seem obvious, preschools are uncertain about whether to use that time to teach more (and expand their curriculum) or if the naps are useful.  This suggests that naps are very important to emotional development.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Given that our study is the first to suggest an interactive effect of multiple sleep bouts (naps and overnight sleep), it’s important to consider the role of multiple sleep bouts in other work going forward. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This work was done with Dr. Lauri Kurdziel at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Citation: Laura B. F. Kurdziel, Jessica Kent, Rebecca M. C. Spencer. Sleep-dependent enhancement of emotional memory in early childhood. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-30980-y

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Last Updated on August 22, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD