Nighttime and Daytime Sleeping Improves Children?s Motor Skill

Yan, J. H. 1, 2

1 Shenzhen University
2 Tsinghua University

Motor skill acquisition occurs while practicing (on-line) and when asleep or awake (off-line). Important questions remain about whether children of different ages benefit similarly from sleeping in motor learning. This study examines the contributions of overnight sleeping and daytime napping to procedural skill learning. Children explicitly practiced a finger motor sequence with keyboards. After an equivalent 11-hour interval in one of the states (sleeping, napping, waking), children performed the same sequence in skill retention and a novel sequence in skill transfer. Changes in the movement time (MT) and sequence accuracy (SA) were evaluated between ages (6, 8, 10 years) during practice and from training to retrieval trials across treatments. The results suggest that two- or nine-hour post-practice sleep enhanced motor speed in children. The 6-year-olds improved motor speed more than their older peers; there may be a potential developmental pattern of skill formation. Practice-dependent and independent learning modes may be facilitated by separate, but integrated, neural structures in child learners. The experiments offer evidence for the age-related, but not age-dependent, skill learning characteristics in children and a potential means for enhancing their motor skills. The dynamics between age and memory development and the implications of skill acquisition are discussed.