In China, children are known to establish good mental and physical health — as parents take the full responsibility of introducing a healthy ‘nap’ to every kid. The practice is embedded in daily life, continuing through elementary and middle school, even into adulthood. Thus for every Chinese, napping is a form of saving energy and renewing life, and applying this practice into children will help them achieve their full potential.
New research from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Irvine published a journal called ‘Sleep.’ The whole gist of the study backs up each parent’s claim not just only in China but in different parts of the world that, napping has benefits particularly for the child’s mood, energy levels, and school performance.
To find out how “sleep” particularly a “nap” can help nurture the child’s mental and physical health, researchers conducted a study from nearly 3,000 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders ages 10-12. “Napping,” in this research, refers to a period of short light sleep, especially during the midday. The findings revealed a connection between midday napping and greater happiness, self-control, and grit.
Fewer behavioral problems are one of the good effects of a “nap” to every child. The firmness of character or strength of personality is an essential factor in the development of a child’s character. A good nap ensures the child’s positive attitude towards school activities, people, classmates, and things around her, among others.
But aside from fewer behavioral problems, the most significant findings were associated with higher IQ, especially with sixth graders. Children who take a nap on midday are most likely to excel in academics, as sleeping enriches intellectual functions.
“Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6 percent increase in academic performance especially in Grade 6 students,” said Penn Neurocriminologist Adrian Raine, a co-author on the paper.
The study also highlights that sleep deficiency and daytime drowsiness are widespread nowadays, with the latter affecting up to 20 percent of all children. Poor sleeping habits affect the cognitive, emotional, and physical health of children, says the lead author of the study, Jianghong Liu, a Penn Associate Professor of Nursing and Public Health.
Before there were researches on the effects of poor sleeping habits to children, a new study argues that it only focused on pre-schoolers and the younger ones — that’s mainly because, in places like the United States, napping halts altogether as children get older. In China, however, the practice is entrenched into daily life from elementary and middle school even into adulthood.
This time, Liu and her team, level up the research by fixating on children ten to twelve years old. The sleep researchers also teamed up with China’s Jintan Cohort Study (established in 2004) to monitor participants from toddlerhood through adolescence.
Researchers collected the data from each of 2,928 children who were asked about napping frequency and duration as they step into Grades 4 through 6. They were also tested to measure their psychological facets, including grit and happiness, physical traits such as body mass index, as well as, glucose levels.
With the help of their teachers, researchers were able to identify the behavioral and academic information about each student. Then they analyzed relations between each result and napping, adjusting for sex, grade, location, parental education, and nightly bedtime.
This is the first comprehensive study about midday nap on children. “Many lab studies across all ages have demonstrated that naps can show the same magnitude of improvement as a full night of sleep on discrete cognitive tasks. But this study had the chance to ask real-world, adolescent schoolchildren questions across a wide range of behavioral, academic, social, and physiological measures,” says Mednick, one of the sleep researchers. She added that the more students sleep during the day, the higher the benefit of naps on many of the abovementioned measures.
The midday nap in a broader sense is easily implemented, and it costs nothing. This may not be a perfect solution to parents’ concern over their children’s poor academic performance and behavioral problems, but it can be a guide in helping kids achieve their full potential. “It will not only help the kids, but it will also take away time for screen use, which is related to a lot of mixed outcomes,” says Liu.
For now, the researchers say they hope the outcomes of this current study can inform future interventional work that focuses on adolescent sleepiness.