School & District Management What the Research Says

Naps May Boost Learning for Sleep-Deprived Teenagers

By Sarah D. Sparks — August 20, 2019 1 min read
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For chronically sleep-deprived adolescents—which, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is most of them—afternoon naps could help bolster memory and learning, according to a study in the journal Nature.

Researchers from the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School randomly assigned 58 adolescents into two groups. One group got 6½ hours of sleep a night for two weeks, to simulate a typical school week for a sleep-deprived student. The other got five hours of sleep each night, plus a 1½ hour nap each day at 2 p.m. At the end of the first school week, both groups studied a set of pictures, on which they were tested the following Monday, after sleeping normally over the weekend. During the second week, the students learned about different species of amphibians in the mornings and afternoons.

Students who got an afternoon nap were better than those who got more nightly sleep in remembering both the first week’s pictures and the facts learned in the afternoons of the second week. (Both groups equally remembered the morning lessons.) Students with the split-sleep schedules also reported being more focused, alert, and motivated in the afternoons.

Naps have long been shown to benefit younger students, but these findings add to evidence that they can boost memory for older students, too.

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A version of this article appeared in the August 21, 2019 edition of Education Week as Naps May Boost Learning for Sleep-Deprived Teenagers

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