Sleep Helps Infants With Language Development

Sleep Helps Infants With Language Development

Sleep is more than just a time for the body’s physical muscles to rest and recharge; it’s an essential part of the brain’s ability to remain functional and healthy as well. During sleep, our brains process memories and prepare us for the mental challenges to come. When sleep is interrupted, or consistently of poor quality over a longer period of time, it’s very damaging to us.

A recent study looking at infants around seven months old studied the effects of sleep on the ability to form memories. Specifically, word association memories. The infants were exposed to fantasy objects with equally fictitious names. Some of the objects were similar to other, with only minor differences such as altered shape or varying shades of color. Using made up objects allowed the scientists to control for any previous or outside knowledge the infants might have, and the slightly different but still largely similar groups of objects simulating real world conditions such as how all cats can look different but still appear as cats.

The research found infants were only able to make associations and generalizations between similar objects after a nap. When they were shown similar objects without a chance to sleep after seeing the initial types of that object, they could not connect them as a group. After rest, their brains found the connections and made the association.

Key Points:

  • 1Babies can associate words with meaning between 6 and 8 months old.
  • 2Babies who took naps after morning learning consolidated memories and remembered words in the afternoon, while babies who didn’t nap did not make those associations in the afternoon.
  • 3Compared to babies who had 30 minute naps, babies who napped for 50 minutes had brain reactions that demonstrated they could learn the meaning of words at a young age.

Stage two sleep is a lighter sleep, where memories transform from early to advanced development in lexical memory.

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