Why sleep is important to the way a baby learns

A new study by researchers at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, has discovered that babies learn best from information sessions that happen right before they sleep. We’ve known for a while that sleep helps children and adults retain information but the evidence is new when it comes to babies.


To test the effect of sleep on a baby’s ability to remembers, researchers offered babies in two particular age groups (6- and 12-months) a memorable experience; a live puppet show that the babies watched whilst sitting on a caregiver’s lap. The puppeteer made sure that the little viewers had plenty of opportunity to learn the sequence, repeating it several times before putting the puppet away.

Four hours later the babies were given the puppet (from the show) to play with and interestingly, their ability to remember and perform the actions they had watched in the puppet show depended on sleep. In a nutshell, the babies who slept after the show remembered more than the babies who had not had any substantial sleep (longer than 30 minutes) after the show – these babies seemed to remember nothing at all.

Researchers also did another similar experiment whereby the participating babies where offered the puppet 24 hours after the show, by which time they all would have had a substantial night’s sleep. BUT only the babies who had slept directly after the show remembered the puppeteer’s actions. In other words; it’s not just about sleep but well timed sleep; sleep that must happen after the event rather than before.

So, now you know the best time to teach your ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’, and definitely no more Hansel and Gretel or Jack and the Beanstalk before bed!

Source: blogs.babycenter.com – “Study: Babies learn best from sessions right before sleep” (http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/study-babies-learn-best-01142015-right-before-sleep/).