Creative Child

Better Sleep, Smarter Kids?

Could an earlier bedtime bolster your child’s creativity and problem-solving skills? Slumbering science suggests it might.
by Erin J. Bernard on Sep 4th, 2014

No doubt about it: sleep does a growing body good.

Teachers have long noted that well-rested children seem more energetic and are better able to pay attention. And any mom or dad knows that skipping just one nap can throw a kid off-kilter for days.

But a cheery, pliable disposition is just the beginning of the sleep story. Each time your child drifts off, a complex chain of processes cues up in the brain and body that work to nurture your child's problem-solving skills, creativity and even emotional intelligence.

For starters, a good night's sleep enhances memory by making it easier for your child to interface with new information. According to research from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, sleep not only better prepares humans to form new memories, but it also helps them to integrate those new memories into the brain's existing framework. Think of your child's dreaming time as a dress rehearsal for waking life: the brain is busy strengthening connections and shuffling memories around so they'll be easily accessible later on.

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A study published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" in 2009 uncovered a possible link between Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and the forging of new connections in the brain between previously unrelated ideas.

These kinds of connections may be essential to creative development. When kids sleep deeply, the study suggests, their brains use the downtime to stitch together concepts they've been exposed to during waking life and to discover relationships among all kinds of seemingly unconnected subjects. The result? Kids better equipped to tackle life's riddles creatively, and better able to think critically across disciplines.

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Related Article: 3 Things You Didn't Know About Your Child's Brain

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