If your child isn’t getting enough sleep, his performance in school drops. Well that’s obvious. But what may not be obvious is how significantly it impacts your child if he misses just one hour of sleep a night.
“A sleep deprivation study on a group of elementary students revealed that sixth graders, missing one hour of sleep a night, performed in class at the level of a fourth grader.” – The Lost Hour, Nurture Shock
“children between the ages of 10 and 16 who have sleep disordered breathing, which includes snoring, sleep apnea, and other types of interrupted breathing during sleep, are more likely to have problems with attention and learning, according to a 2010 study in the journal Sleep” – Health
Getting enough sleep is vital to academic success
These are 6 reasons from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on why sleep is important for academic success:
- Sleepiness and poor sleep quality are prevalent among university students, affecting their academic performance and daytime functioning.
- Students with symptoms of sleep disorders are more likely to receive poor grades in classes such as math, reading and writing than peers without symptoms of sleep disorders.
- College students with insomnia have significantly more mental health problems than college students without insomnia.
- College students with medical-related majors are more likely to have poorer quality of sleep in comparison to those with a humanities major.
- College students who pull “all-nighters” are more likely to have a lower GPA.
- Students who stay up late on school nights and make up for it by sleeping late on weekends are more likely to perform poorly in the classroom. This is because, on weekends, they are waking up at a time that is later than their internal body clock expects. The fact that their clock must get used to a new routine may affect their ability to be awake early for school at the beginning of the week when they revert back to their old routine.
- Poor sleep tied to kids’ lower academic performance – Reuters
- Better sleep is associated with improved academic success – Science Daily
- The link between sleep quantity and academic performance for the college student – Sentience (The University of Minnesota, Undergraduate Journal of Psychology)
- Lack of sleep blights pupils’ education – BBC News
Sleep problems and drug use
According to the American Psychological Association:
“a long-term study published in the 2004 April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, [showed that] young teenagers whose preschool sleep habits were poor were more than twice as likely to use drugs, tobacco or alcohol. The researchers suggest that early sleep problems may be a “marker” for predicting later risk of early adolescent substance abuse—and that there may be a common biological factor underlying both traits.”
- Teen sleep problems lead to depression and drug abuse – News with Views
Sleep and mental health problems
According to the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, teenagers who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk for developing mental health problems.
each hour of lost sleep was associated with a 38 percent increase in the odds of feeling sad and hopeless, a 42 percent increase in considering suicide, a 58 percent increase in suicide attempts and a 23 percent increase in substance abuse. – Scientific American
Why is sleep important?
The Harvard Health Publications share these reasons why it is important to get enough sleep:
- Learning and memory – sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
- Metabolism and weight – chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
- Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime.
- Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
- Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.
Health Magazine adds that sleep also has these effects:
- spurs creativity – your brain reorganizes and restructures memory which may result in more creativity. Additionally, people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.
- improved physical performance – a Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.
- facilitates weight loss – researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep. “Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain,” Dr. Rapoport says. “When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite.”
- not sleeping enough can lead to depression
Why are children sleeping later?
- hectic family schedules – reluctance of late-working parents to pack their kids off to bed early, sheer parental exhaustion allows kids to win the sleeptime skirmishes
- over-scheduling with too many extra-curricular activities
- overstimulation in children who have TVs in their bedrooms, play video games too close to bedtime, or even texting on their phones
How do you know when your child is not sleeping enough?
- constantly falling asleep in the car even on short trips
- eye rubbing, irritability, and aggressive behavior
- a child who needs a lot of prodding to start moving in the morning may be sleeping too late
Even if your child gets up on her own, that isn’t necessarily a sign that she’s fully rested. Dr Mindell, director of behavioral pediatrics of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, explains that we have very strong internal clocks and some children will wake up at a certain hour no matter what time they go to bed.
The problem with teenagers and sleep
Probably the most concerning issue with children and sleep involve teenagers…
“during the teen years, the body’s circadian rhythm (sort of like an internal biological clock) is temporarily reset, telling a person to fall asleep later and wake up later. This change might be due to the fact that the brain hormone melatonin is produced later at night for teens than it is for kids and adults. This can make it harder for teens to fall asleep early.” – KidsHealth
Given the early start times of school, our teenagers can suffering from a significant sleep deficit over time.
With this understanding of teenage sleep patterns, there has been a push for later start times for highschools. Even pushing back the start time of schools by 25 minutes can make an impact on teenage productivity. Unfortunately for us, this movement hasn’t really taken place here. Here’s hoping the schools will make the change before my boys hit their teenage years and start highschool…
- Later school start times improve sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents – Science Daily
- Backgrounder: Later School Start Times – National Sleep Foundation
- Parents Of Sleep-Deprived Teens Push For Later School Start Times – NPR
- Later School Start Time Linked to Improved Sleep, Mood in Teens – Psych Central
* Image courtesy of Stoonn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net