Human infants devote the majority of their time to sleeping. However, very little is known about the role of sleep in early memory processing. Here we test 6- and 12-mo-old infants' declarative memory for novel actions after a 4-h [Experiment (Exp.) 1] and 24-h delay (Exp. 2). Infants in a nap condition took an extended nap (≥30 min) within 4 h after learning, whereas infants in a no-nap condition did not. A comparison with age-matched control groups revealed that after both delays, only infants who had napped after learning remembered the target actions at the test. Additionally, after the 24-h delay, memory performance of infants in the nap condition was significantly higher than that of infants in the no-nap condition. This is the first experimental evidence to our knowledge for an enhancing role of sleep in the consolidation of declarative memories in the first year of life.
Keywords: daytime naps; deferred imitation; infant development; sleep-dependent memory.