Sweet dreams can spell out improved language skills for youngsters

(Medical Xpress)—A good night's sleep can help children to acquire and retain vocabulary, according to new research by psychologists at the University of York and Sheffield Hallam University.

The researchers presented compelling evidence that language learning patterns for adults can also be found in children as young as seven, as long as they sleep in the 12 hours after they first encounter new words.

The study, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and conducted by Dr Lisa Henderson and Professor Gareth Gaskell in the Department of Psychology at York and Dr Anna Weighall, from the psychology research group at Sheffield Hallam, shows that sleep mechanisms associated with adult learning are also involved in vocabulary acquisition earlier in development.

Dr Weighall said: "These are truly exciting results which open up a new dimension of research in our understanding of . Our work provides the first evidence that sleep is associated with the integration of newly-learned words into the mental dictionaries of children."

Using a similar technique to work with adults conducted by Professor Gaskell at York, the team examined changes in memory for newly-learned words  after sleep and found that new words began to compete with existing "known" words around 12 hours after first encountering them but only if sleep has occurred.

This indicates that the new words have been remembered and integrated in and that sleep provides the ideal conditions for integration to take place.

Dr Henderson added: "Children's ability to recall and recognise new words improved approximately 12 hours after training, but only if sleep occurs. The key effects were maintained one week later, suggesting that these new words are retained in long-term memory."

The research team says these findings published in show for the first time that sleep is implicated in memory for new vocabulary in children.

The findings also open up a new line of research that has direct clinical implications – neuro-developmental disorders such as autism and dyslexia are associated with disordered sleep patterns and difficulties with language learning.

Professor Gaskell said: "Clearly, children need to learn material well in the first place, but then they also need to 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."

More information: Henderson, L.M. et al., Consolidation of vocabulary is associated with sleep in children, Developmental Science (2012).

Related Stories

The Role of Sleep in Learning New Words

date Sep 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study has demonstrated for the first time the importance of sleep in learning new words, and has shown the process has fast and slow components. The slow component is associated with ...

Collecting your thoughts: You can do it in your sleep!

date Nov 02, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- It is one thing to learn a new piece of information, such as a new phone number or a new word, but quite another to get your brain to file it away so it is available when you need it.

Sleep disturbances hurt memory consolidation

date Mar 28, 2012

Sleep disturbance negatively impacts the memory consolidation and enhancement that usually occurs with a good night's sleep, according to a study published Mar. 28 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Sleep enforces the temporal sequence in memory

date Apr 18, 2007

We have usually quite strong memories of past events like an exciting holiday or a jolly birthday party. However it is not clear how the brain keeps track of the temporal sequence in such memories: did Paul spill a glass ...

Give it time, and sleep

date Apr 17, 2007

Researchers at McGill University and Harvard Medical School have established a direct link between sleep and improved relational memory function. Their study is published today in the April 16 online edition of Proceedings of ...

Recommended for you

Breastfeeding protects against environmental pollution

date 19 hours ago

Living in a city with a high level of vehicle traffic or close to a steel works means living with two intense sources of environmental pollution. However, a study conducted by the UPV/EHU researcher Aitana ...

When it comes to hearing, diet may trump noise exposure

date 19 hours ago

Although the old wives' tale about carrots being good for your eyesight has been debunked, University of Florida researchers have found a link between healthy eating and another of your five senses: hearing.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.