When is your baby sleeping? According to a recent study, babies who get most of their sleep at night–as opposed to during daytime naps–do better on tests of executive functioning, including impulse control, mental flexibility and working memory, compared with kids who sleep less at night.
This research boosts what studies have been finding–that early childhood sleep plays a key role in the development of higher-order cognitive processes, which may later contribute to emotional and social adjustment and achievement in school.
“These results raise the possibility that infant sleep affects developing brain structures [associated with higher-order cognitive processes] in the first two years of life,” the authors of the study write, “thereby setting in motion a cascade of neural effects that may carry substantial implications for later executive functioning.”
The “restorative features of sleep may be especially prominent in the frontal cortex, which is one of the most active and most densely connected brain regions during wake time, and may thus require more recuperation during sleep,” the researchers explained.