Brain researchers say short naps in the day can help stimulate learning in children, and adults can benefit too.
Power naps key to focused school children?
In Tahvonlahti primary school in Helsinki, a group on 10-year old children routinely gather exercise mats and beanbags from the class corner and take a 15 minute nap. The exercise focused primary school has been testing out daily class naps with the students of 4B. Whilst some of the children rest, others will need waking up by the teacher, having fallen asleep - writes yle.fi.
”Some need to be shaken a little, told that it’s time for recess”, laughed teacher Paula Myllyoja.
Often during nap time, soothing music will be playing, and other times the teacher will help the students relax through creativity exercises or encouraging them to relax their body one limb at a time. In just a month Myllyoja has noticed positive changes in the students.
”The ability to remain calm is improving. The children have learned to listen to themselves and their bodies.”
Due to the naps only taking 15 minutes, other teaching time has not needed to be cut. Image: Outi Kuitunen / Yle
Only 15 minutes is used for the naps, this means the regular teaching schedule is not affected. On the contrary, the rest of the teaching time is used more efficiently. To the students of 4B, daily naps have already become a part of their daily routine.
”Pretty normal. Nice and relaxing” said students Mikaela Rintala and Iraida Myllymäki.
”First I thought it was weird! But when you sleep it does feel pretty great. A little like sleeping in my own bed at nighttime” pondered Eetu Arnberg.
Naps may invigorate the brain
Myllyoja, a footballer in the national team as well as teacher of class 4B, said she takes a nap everyday after work. She got the idea for the class naps from brain researcher Minna Huotilainen. According to her research at Helsinki University, a short 7-15 minute nap can have a positive effect on learning and focusing.
Just resting for a bit can also be useful, even if you do not fall asleep. Research has indicated that naps can help store recently learnt material in memory.
”It seems that during a nap the brain begins to transfer learnt material into the long-term memory of the brain, indicating that naps should be taken immediately after learning something new.” Huotilainen said the process continues during sleep at night.
On the other hand naps seem to have an invigorating effect on the brain.
Huotilainen said ”the phenomenon lasts around three hours after a nap. In this case naps should be taken just prior to learning new material.”
It is possible that both functions may occur simultaneously as the effects of such naps are the topic of ongoing research.
A short nap could also benefit many adults, as long as it is not taken too late in the day to affect sleep at night. For some, naps may cause significant drowsiness in which case they should be avoided.
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”In any case the sleep you get at night is the most important, if naps get in the way of it, the benefits are lost.”