Sleep enhances memory consolidation in children

A. Ashworth, C.M. Hill, A. Karmiloff-Smith, D. Dimitriou

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    60 Citations (Scopus)
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    Sleep is an active state that plays an important role in the consolidation of memory. It has been found to enhance explicit memories in both adults and children. However, in contrast to adults, children do not always show a sleep-related improvement in implicit learning. The majority of research on sleep-dependent memory consolidation focuses on adults; hence, the current study examined sleep-related effects on two tasks in children. Thirty-three typically developing children aged 6–12 years took part in the study. Actigraphy was used to monitor sleep. Sleep-dependent memory consolidation was assessed using a novel non-word learning task and the Tower of Hanoi cognitive puzzle, which involves discovering an underlying rule to aid completion. Children were trained on the two tasks and retested following approximately equal retention intervals of both wake and sleep. After sleep, children showed significant improvements in performance of 14% on the non-word learning task and 25% on the Tower of Hanoi task, but no significant change in score following the wake retention interval. Improved performance on the Tower of Hanoi may have been due to children consolidating explicit aspects of the task, for example rule-learning or memory of previous sequences; thus, we propose that sleep is necessary for consolidation of explicit memory in children. Sleep quality and duration were not related to children's task performance. If such experimental sleep-related learning enhancement is generalizable to everyday life, then it is clear that sleep plays a vital role in children's educational attainment.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)304-310
    JournalJournal of Sleep Research
    Issue number3
    Early online date16 Dec 2013
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Bibliographical note

    "This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Ashworth, A. , Hill, C.M. , Karmiloff-Smith, A. and Dimitriou, D. (2014) Sleep enhances memory consolidation in children. Journal of Sleep Research, volume 23 (3): 304-310, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving."


    • memory
    • paediatric
    • sleep
    • sleep-dependent memory consolidation


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