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Sleep helps learning in babies

Encouraging naps can have a dramatic impact upon memory and early life learning claim scientists.

Researchers at Sheffield University and Ruhr University (Germany), ran trials involving 216 babies under a year old. The children were taught a number of tasks, and it was found that they could not remember them if they did not sleep soon afterwards.

They taught six to 12-month-olds three new tasks involving playing with hand puppets.

Half the babies slept within four hours of learning, while the rest either had no sleep or napped for fewer than 30 minutes.

Prof Derk-Jan Dijk, vice-president of the World Sleep Federation said: "It may be that sleep is much more important at some ages than others, but that remains to be firmly established."

He said babies "should definitely get enough sleep" to encourage learning, but concentrating learning just before bedtime may not be best.

"What the data show is sleeping after training is positive, it does not show that being sleepy during training is positive."