To Lock In New Vocabulary Words, Kids Need To Sleep

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A good night’s sleep helps children develop their vocabularies, reports Amber Moore on the Medical Daily website. We know from studies of adults that knowledge and skills acquired while awake must be “consolidated” during the period of sleep that follows. Now,

” . . . a new study has found that the mechanism that the adults use to learn is the same mechanism that enables children to develop vocabulary.

Researchers found that new words are integrated with already-familiar words in children’s brains after a cycle of 12 hours. But this process happens only if the child has slept during the period. Sleep provides an environment that helps the brain consolidate learned material and shift it from short-term memory to long-term memory.

‘Clearly, children need to learn material well in the first place, but then they also need to sleep well in order to weave these new memories in with their established knowledge. The combination of these two components is the key to robust learning,” said researcher Gareth Gaskell, a psychologist at the University of York.

Adds coauthor Anna Weighall: ‘Our work provides the first evidence that sleep is associated with the integration of newly-learned words into the mental dictionaries of children.” (Read more here.)

Another reason, if we needed one, to make sure that children get enough high-quality sleep: Learning isn’t really locked in until it’s been consolidated during slumber.

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