Most babies don’t start talking until they are at least one year old. It’s not uncommon for babies to exceed one year of age before saying their first word. For babies to learn new words, they need you to talk to them - of course - but did you know sleep plays a critical part in word recognition as well?
Your Baby Can Succeed With Words Earlier Than You Assumed
According to the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, sleep is important for babies to grasp words with content, not just noise. In a babies’ world, every moment is a brand new experience, right up until the infant's brain organizes the plethora of stimulations. The brain will now have to save new information in the long-term memory portion while aggregating similar experiences and putting them into categories. One thing out of this entire process is critical - which is sleep. Researchers have conducted a study and revealed that babies can associate words with meanings earlier than anyone ever expected.
So, Why is Sleep So Important?
While your baby sleeps, the process above happens in their brain. Babies were observed by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig and found that babies excel when it comes to correlating a meaning and a word between six and eight months. Memory is attributed to the meaning of words and this passes through during stages of sleep in typical lexical development, which is proto-words that combine only simultaneously occurring acoustic and visual stimuli that become real words and are associated to content.
How Did Scientists Figure This Out?
Scientists studied the relations by showing fantasy objects to six-to-eight month-old infants and giving those objects fantasy names. The objects that had different color or form were called the same names (without giving a fantasy name) For example, cats were called cats and dogs were called dogs. There was no alternate name for the word. Researches chose the fictitious objects to ensure that participants weren’t able to access existing knowledge.
Once discovering the infants’ brain reaction, they found it was obvious that the children couldn’t connect the new objects in the same category as the corresponding name, which means they didn’t recognize the new fantasy object even though it was similar to the prior version. Each new object and word pair was unique and unknown and they couldn’t build a general relation between them yet.
Interestingly enough, this began to change after an afternoon nap. For the babies that took a nap after learning phases, their brain could tell the difference between the wrong and right term for each new object. Knowledge was gained while they were sleeping. For the babies who stayed awake, they weren’t able to do the same.
What was even more interesting - children with different durations of sleep were able to develop two separate types of knowledge. After just a 30-minute nap, babies showed a brain reaction which is the same that three-month-olds have after associating acoustic stimuli with visual stimuli. During their nap, they were able to filter similar features out of objects, and then connect them with word sounds.
Babies who slept for at least 50 minutes revealed a brain reaction that was previously known for older children and adults.
There are four stages of a sleep cycle, and the second stage of sleep has the most influence on the lexical memory development. During the light sleep, babies transition from a simple early developing form of lexical memory to an advanced form, according to the study leader, Manuela Friedrich. Forming of memory content during sleep takes place at a fast pace.
Isn’t this such an eye-opening study? Sleep is more important than we think, especially for little ones. Leave a comment to tell us what you think about the study.