Recent research has established that sleep is essential for memory consolidation in learning and academic performance of children and adults. Similar evidence in childhood is emerging. Conversely, sleep deprivation and/or sleep problems usually weaken these functions. The present study investigates the association between sleep related learning in school-aged children with Williams syndrome (N=14) compared to the typically developing children (N=14). Sleep was measured using actigraphy and parents completed the Child Sleep Health Questionnaire. Accuracy performance on a well-characterised procedural learning task- the finger tapping motor sequence task (FTT) was assessed on three sessions. Children in the typically developing group showed increased accuracy scores following a period of sleep (14% improvement) compared with wake (drop of 2%). In contrast children with Williams syndrome showed an initial improvement in accuracy on the training session, albeit slow, but their accuracy deteriorated following a period of sleep. The sleep-related decrement in performance on the procedural task may reflect sleep problems that are now well characterised in the WS group. This study demonstrated the contribution of sleep to procedural learning in typically developing children. Further studies may elucidate the reasons why similar sleep related benefits are not seen in children with Williams syndrome. Meanwhile practitioners and families should ensure that children obtain adequate sleep in order to maximise their attention readiness to learn and achieve optimum cognitive performance.
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