The function of sleep in early childhood

Project Description : 

Sleep protects and enhances memory in young adults. Specifically, performance changes on a range of tasks are greater following an interval with sleep relative to changes over an interval spent awake. Sleep also enhances encoding of subsequent memories. In young adults, a mid-day nap is sufficient for gaining these performance benefits. Unlike adults, mid-day naps are routine for young children. The age at which children wean from this biphasic sleep pattern is often influenced by parent and school schedules. Whether naps confer a particular benefit to learning and performance of young children is unknown. The specific objective of this proposal is to examine whether naps contribute to immediate or delayed benefits on multiple forms of learning in early childhood (3-5 yrs). By probing recall prior to and following mid-day nap or wake intervals, the overarching hypothesis is that recent memories are actively processed (as opposed to passively protected) conferring immediate or delayed (24-hrs) benefits on memories. In two conditions, children will either be nap-promoted or wake-promoted mid-day. Subsequently, performance will be reassessed that day as well as the following day. The specific hypotheses examined are: a) mid-day naps benefit learning; b) naps yield stronger memories at 24-hrs; c) performance benefits are due to an active role of sleep as indicated by a relationship between sleep physiology and behavior.

Studies take place in preschool classrooms. Availability of a car is helpful but not required. Must have mid-day availability for testing (particularly on Wednesdays). RAs help with everything from data collection, to analysis, to presentations.

Student Ranks Applicable: 


Credit Hours: 

Honors Thesis: 

Name of Lab: 

Sleep, Cognition, and Action Lab

Contact Person: 

Rebecca Spencer

Contact E-mail:

Lab website: