School Performance Impacted by Sleep

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School performance is significantly impacted by the amount and quality of your child’s sleep

Nutrition, exercise, and sleep are necessary to be healthy and able to learn. If your child is falling asleep or yawning in class or while doing their homework, your child is not getting enough sleep. Other signs of inadequate sleep are grouchiness, short attention span, impulsiveness, and trouble learning. The National Sleep Foundation says our elementary school children, ages 5-12, need 10-11 hours of sleep per night.  Adjust your child’s bedtime to provide the correct number of hours of sleep. School starts at a predictable time each day. Sleeping late in the morning is not an option.

The quality and quantity of sleep determine learning and retention of that learning. Clinical psychologist Reut Gruber, director of the Attention Behavior and Sleep Lab at the Douglas Research Center in Quebec, Canada, led a research team examining the sleep of children. and wrote:

“According to a study, children with reduced sleep are more likely to struggle with verbal creativity, problem solving, inhibiting their behaviour, and generally score lower on IQ tests according to current leading research.  In addition, another study has shown that students who had grades of C, D, or E averaged 25 to 30 minutes less sleep per weeknight than their classmates who achieved A’s or B’s.”

The studies by Dr. Gruber research team have shown that children who do not have an adequate amount of sleep have a stronger chance of low or failing grades in school. Math and language courses require the use of memory, sequencing and reasoning;  all are functions of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain which is most vulnerable to lack of sleep.

The brain needs sleep time to take the learning from the previous day and move it into long-term memory. The deep portion of the sleep cycle is required to improve the retention of learning from the previous day.

Sleep-deprived children have more difficulty controlling their emotions and impulses

We all tend to get grouchy when we are overtired. Sleep-deprived children can be emotional and impulsive leading to problems in the classroom and on the playground. Lack of sleep contributes to a short attention span.  A tired child has great difficulty with making more than one attempt at a difficult task.

Academic and behavioral school performance is impacted by the child’s sleep.

My five sleep habits to help children succeed in school 

1. Consistent bedtime and wake-up time

The same bedtime each night sets the body’s 24-hour rhythm. The bedtime chosen should allow the child to receive the recommended 10-11 hours of sleep per night. Most elementary school-age children need an early bedtime of 7:30 to 8 PM.

A consistent bedtime will teach the child’s body to anticipate and be ready for sleep. Make sleep a priority by making their bedtime a priority.

2. Bedtime Routine

Twenty to thirty minutes before bedtime is preparation for sleep. What happens prior to sleep has an impact on the quality of the sleep.

The blue lights from TV, pads and smartphone screens wakes the brain up. Stop all screen viewing for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to bedtime.

Plan so that dinner is finished about 2 hours prior to bedtime. Sleep is the opportunity for the digestive system to rest also. The process of digesting a big meal when going to bed will make sleep more difficult.

Avoid caffeine about six hours prior to bedtime. Caffeine tends to wake the brain up and leads to light sleep or no sleep.

Develop a routine to follow each night before bed. It might include a bath, pajamas, and reading a book together or alone.

3. Bedroom environment

Make the sleep environment very dark. Use room darkening shades or curtains to keep the room dark in the evening or early morning. Do not allow any screen devices in their bedroom as they wake up the brain and interfere with sleep. Their bedroom should be boring and look like a dark cave.

The temperature of the room should be between 67 and 72 degrees.

4. White noise

Background or white noise blocks the other sounds of your house or neighborhood which might interrupt your child’s sleep.

Place the white nosie machine about 5 feet from your child to protect their hearing. A fan can also be used for white noise.

5. Sleep is a privilege

Sleep is just as important as food for your child. Teach your child to value their sleep. Each child should look forward to sleep at the end of their day.

Have a healthy sleeping and learning school year for your children!


Arlene Fryling

Arlene is a registered nurse and certified sleep consultant for children 0-5 years. She has cared for premature, sick, and many healthy babies. For over 15 years she has taught expectant parents how to care for their newborns through classes teaching basic baby care, infant massage classes, and moderating support groups for new moms as they deal with parenting issues.

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