Sleep Helps Infants with Language Development

Sleep Helps Infants with Language Development

Though we all sleep, many questions remain into how and why, and as to what exactly happens during our nightly slumber. New research that focused on infants has made fresh discoveries into some of those unanswered questions. Sleep is turning out to be crucial to the assimilation of knowledge.

Infants aged six to eight months were exposed to original objects with equally original names; objects and names that were made up and not adopted from actual objects and names. This was to control against any prior associations the infants might have formed from existing knowledge. Both objects and names were grouped into like categories, similar to how most dogs share certain characteristics.

After the exposure, during morning sessions, the infants were generally not able to make associations with these new objects. Or able to connect the like objects from the categories logically as being similar. But following a sleep period, in this case the routine nap the infants took during the early afternoon, the associations became possible. Once they slept, and allowed their brains to process the new learning, they were now able to properly utilize the information. Other infants who did not sleep, or who did not sleep sufficiently long enough for their brains to complete the sleep processing, remained unable to make the new associations.

Key Points:

  • 1We know that sleep is helpful for adults, but what role does it have in the development of infant language skills?
  • 2To find out, researchers studied groups of infants that did or did not take naps during the day.
  • 3The researchers found that those which took naps showed unique, high-level cognitive functions only previously seen in adults.


These memories and meanings pass through the same stages in sleep as they do in lexical development: this personal language development includes things like proto-words that combine both visual and acoustic stimuli to make a word that has a meaning to that person.
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