Is nap status related to memory, sleep physiology, and the hippocampus in early childhood?

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Research suggests there may be links between developmental changes in sleep (e.g., transition out of a nap), memory, and brain (specifically, hippocampus). The purpose of this investigation was to explore differences in sleep physiology, visuospatial memory, and hippocampal volume based on nap status. Participants were 3 to 5-year-old children (n=51) who were habitual nappers (napping >5 days/week), semi-habitual nappers (3–4 days/week), or non-nappers (<2 days/week). Participants completed a memory task before and after a wake and nap session. Polysomnography (PSG) and hippocampal volumes were also assessed. Findings demonstrated that, regardless of nap status, children performed better on a memory task following a nap. PSG revealed that habitual nappers spent marginally more time in nREM2 sleep and less time in SWS compared to semi-habitual nappers. Finally, non-nappers demonstrated a larger hippocampus than the other groups. These findings support the suggestion that developmental differences in these domains are related during childhood.