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BACKGROUND: The facilitating role of sleep for language learning is well-attested in adults and to a lesser extent in infants and toddlers. However, the longitudinal relationship between sleep patterns and early vocabulary development is not well understood. METHODS: This study investigates how measures of sleep are related to the development of vocabulary size in infants and toddlers. Day and night-time sleeping patterns of infants and toddlers were compared with their concurrent and subsequent vocabulary development. Sleep assessments were conducted using a sleep diary specifically designed to facilitate accurate parental report. Sleep measures were used as predictors in a multilevel growth curve analysis of vocabulary development. RESULTS: The number of daytime naps was positively associated with both predicted expressive (p = .062) and receptive vocabulary growth (p = .006), whereas the length of night-time sleep was negatively associated with rate of predicted expressive vocabulary growth (p = .045). Sleep efficiency was also positively associated with both predicted receptive (p = .001) and expressive vocabulary growth (p = .068). CONCLUSIONS: These results point to a longitudinal relationship between sleep and language development, with a particular emphasis on the importance of napping at this age.

Original publication




Journal article


J Child Psychol Psychiatry

Publication Date





1008 - 1017


Sleep, children, infants, nap, vocabulary development