Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Let babies learn by sleeping on it

My Paper, Wednesday, January 14, 2015, Page A10, Lifestyle, Top Stories
From http://epaper.mypaper.sg/emnd/fvxen/fvxp/fvxpress.php?param=2015-01-14
Source Website: http://mypaper.sg/top-stories/let-babies-learn-sleeping-it-20150114
By BBC, mypaper, myp@sph.com.sg, Published on Jan 14, 2015



New connections between brain cells are formed during sleep. Those who sleep after learning learn well, those not sleeping don't learn at all, say scientists.
PHOTO: New connections between brain cells are formed during sleep. Those who sleep after learning learn well, those not sleeping don't learn at all, say scientists.
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LONDON
THE key to learning and memory in early life is a lengthy nap, say scientists.

Trials with 216 babies aged up to 12 months old indicated that they were unable to remember new tasks if they did not have a lengthy snooze soon afterwards.

The University of Sheffield team suggested that the best time to learn may be just before sleep and emphasised the importance of reading at bedtime.

Experts said sleep may be much more important in the early years than at other ages. People spend more of their time asleep as babies than at any other point in their lives.

Yet the researchers in Sheffield and Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, say "strikingly little is known" about the role of sleep in the first year of life.

They taught six- to 12-month-olds three new tasks involving playing with hand puppets. Half the babies slept within four hours of learning, while the rest either had no sleep or napped for fewer than 30 minutes. The next day, the babies were encouraged to repeat what they had been taught.

The results, published in Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, showed that "sleeping like a baby" was vital for learning. On average, 11/2 tasks could be repeated after having a substantial nap, while zero tasks could be repeated if there was little sleep time.

Jane Herbert, from the department of psychology at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC News website: "Those who sleep after learning learn well, those not sleeping don't learn at all."

She said it had been assumed that "wide awake was best" for learning. Instead, it "may be the events just before sleep that are most important". The findings showed "just how valuable" reading books with children before sleep could be.

A study last year uncovered the mechanisms of memory in sleep. It showed how new connections between brain cells formed during sleep.

Derk-Jan Dijk, a sleep scientist at the University of Surrey, said: "It may be that sleep is much more important at some ages than others, but that remains to be firmly established."

There is also growing interest in sleep and memory at the other end of life.

The two go hand in hand in your twilight years, particularly with underlying neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia.

By BBC, mypaper, myp@sph.com.sg, Published on Jan 14, 2015



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