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April 19, 2022
by Patricia Tomasi

How Naps Can Help Preschool Children Learn Their Letters

April 19, 2022 08:00 by Patricia Tomasi  [About the Author]

A new study published in the Journal of Child Development looked at the effects of napping on preschool children’s learning of letter-sound mappings. 

The research was carried out by faculty of the Macquarie University in Australia, the University of Oxford, the University of York and the University of Sheffield.

“We know that letter-sound learning is essential for early reading acquisition, so we want to explore factors that may help with learning this skill,” study author Dr. Hua-Chen Wang told us. “Sleep has been found to enhance learning. As such, this study looks at whether there's a nap for learning letter-sound associations.” 

Dr. Wang is a Lecturer at the School of Education and Macquarie University Centre for Reading.

According to previous research, it’s been shown in children who nap are more content, have less behavioural problems, and excel academically better than their peers who don’t nap or nap as often. This was shown in children who napped between a half hour and an hour daily at least three times a week. The study revealed that children who napped showed an over seven per cent increase in academic performance in grade six. 

Drowsiness affects up to 20 per cent of all children. In China, napping continues in children as they age all the way to middle school and even into adulthood whereas in the US, napping often stops before children begin attending school. Studies have shown that children with better educated parents have more naps.

Studies also show that children need naps to keep fit and healthy. Children who don’t nap or who have trouble sleeping have been shown to have higher rates of obesity. According to US guidelines, infants need up to 18 hours of a sleep per day, two to four naps a day age three months to one year, and  12 to 14 hours of sleep per day for toddlers with a nap in the afternoon that can last as long as three hours. For preschool-aged children, it’s recommended if needed, continued afternoon naps, and all children should get between 11 to 13 hours of sleep.

 It is known that sleep helps with memory consolidation. If that's the case for pre-school children's learning of letter-sound associations, researchers believed they should see better learning performance when children nap after learning.

“We often hear from parents asking what would help their children's learning to 'stick' when they are learning to read,” Dr. Wang told us. “We asked three to five-year-old children to learn letter-sound mappings (e.g., The letter C makes a /k/ sound), over the span of a few hours in which they either napped or stayed awake. We then compare how well they have learned the letter-sound mappings.”

Researchers found that when children have napped after learning, their performance was significantly better compared to when they stayed awake after learning. Researchers were not surprised with the results.

“Naps can potentially be helpful when children are learning to read,” Dr. Wang told us. “We would like to explore nap effects on reading acquisition with older children, as early primary school is when they develop most of their basic reading skills.” 


About the Author

Patricia Tomasi

Patricia Tomasi is a mom, maternal mental health advocate, journalist, and speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post Canada, focusing primarily on maternal mental health after suffering from severe postpartum anxiety twice. You can find her Huffington Post biography here. Patricia is also a Patient Expert Advisor for the North American-based, Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and is the founder of the online peer support group - Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group - with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog:

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