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Study Says We Should Let Older Kids Nap -- Yes, During School

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Naps aren’t just beneficial for babies, it turns out big kids benefit big time too

Ah, naps. The greatest gift in parenthood — for those that are lucky enough to have kids who like to sleep. It’s clear they’re beneficial for babies and rapidly growing toddlers during those early years. It helps them in a variety of ways — preventing The Crankies being one of them. But they’re also super beneficial for big kids, too, according to new research — even though they aren’t afforded the opportunity to nap nearly as often.

A new study published in the journal SLEEP found a connection between a midday nap and increased happiness, better behavior, and higher IQ for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. One standout fact of the study is that children who had naps added to their school schedule (which, yes, is practically unheard of in traditional schools), improved kids’ grades.

“Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6% increase in academic performance in Grade 6,” says the co-author of the study and University of Pennsylvania neuroscientist Adrian Raine in a press release. “How many kids at school would not want their scores to go up by 7.6 points out of 100?”

The research shows approximately 20 percent of all kids function with a type of sleep deficiency, which often leads to drowsiness and lack of focus during school hours. The study tracked the schedules of 3,000 students between the ages of 10 and 12 to see what happened to the kids when they were able to catch some z’s in the middle of the school day.

They found that students of this age range who napped during the day had:

  • More self-control
  • Higher levels of happiness
  • Higher IQs
  • Decreased behavioral problems
  • Overall better academic achievement

When you think about it, even kids as young as 10 are just so busy these days. When you factor in everything they experience in an average 8-hour school day (which is a full day of work for most grown-ups) and add in after-school sports and activities, homework, chores, and family time, well — it’s no wonder kids are exhausted.

With 20% of children facing sleep issues, it’s time to take this whole “let kids nap” thing more seriously. Not only are children’s bodies and brains growing a mile a minute, which can leave them feeling more depleted than full-grown adults, not all kids get adequate amounts of sleep. Mental health, social problems, and family environments all play a role in sleep patterns. Wouldn’t it be great if all kids had a place to catch up on sleep so all kids could reap the benefits?

“The more students sleep during the day, the greater the benefit of naps,” University of California Irvine sleep researcher Sara Mednick says. Jianghong Liu, another co-author of the study, agrees. “The midday nap is easily implemented, and it costs nothing.”

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