For the study, psychologists went into pre-school classrooms and taught 40 children aged three to nearly five years old a simple computer game. It required them to memorise the positions on a grid of images including a cat, an umbrella, and a policeman. The children were trained from 10am until they could remember the positions of around 75% of the pictures.
The scientists visited each child twice over the course of the study. On one visit, the child slept for an hour or so between 1pm and 3pm, and stayed awake on the other. To see how sleep affected their memory, the scientists tested each child again later the same afternoon.
Those who napped saw no change in their morning score of 75%, but the ones who stayed awake fared much worse, averaging scores of 65%, according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"If they stayed awake they forgot more of the items they had remembered in the morning, whereas if they took a nap, they remembered all the items they had learned in the morning," said Rebecca Spencer at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. (Sample. 2013).
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