A Smarter Beginning 

Enough Sleep for Your Child to Learn?

October 15, 2013 / by Susan Sirigatti

We all have days when we’re too tired to think straight.day-82-tired-day_l Well, so do our kids. Unfortunately, in our modern world, even our children aren’t getting enough sleep. This is having serious effects on their development, on their behavior, and on their learning.

Signs of a Sleepy Child

You know them, especially if you’re a mother or a teacher: yawning, difficulty getting up in the morning, wanting to nap or sleep during the day, falling asleep in class, low energy levels, irritability, short attention spans, difficulty focusing on tasks, difficulty solving problems, etc. In fact, recently, there has been an increased awareness of the importance of sleep. This has been accompanied by interesting studies done on the effects of sleep loss.

Studies on the Effects of Sleep Loss on Students

A number of studies have focused on students up through university and on younger children as well. One study that involved students from grade school through university (G. Curcio et al., “Sleep Loss, Learning Capacity and Academic Performance.” Sleep Medicine Review. 2006, 10, 323 – 337) found that at all levels, there is chronic sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality and that his impacts negatively on students’ learning and performance in school.

Higher Cognitive Functions Affected

It is the higher cognitive functions that are most affected. We’re talking about attention, memory and problem solving. From this, the researchers concluded that less sleep produces worse academic performance. This was supported by another study done specifically on children 8 to 12 years old (J.L. Vriend et al., “Manipulating Sleep Duration Alters Emotional Functioning and Cognitive Performance in Children. J. Pediatr.Psychol. 2013 May 28). Here, each child received one hour more sleep for four nights and one hour less sleep for four nights as compared with their regular night’s sleep. After each of the four night blocks, the children’s cognitive and emotional functioning was measured. When the children received less sleep, their memories, attention, and emotional responses were affected negatively.  The conclusion? When the length of the children’s sleep was changed even for only a few days, their functioning during the day was significantly affected. More sleep produced better performance and less sleep produced impaired performance.

Your Child

So if you want a child who gets up easily, is awake and alert in school and focused on the tasks at hand, make sure that she or he gets enough sleep on a regular basis. And if there are quality of sleep issues that you can’t resolve on your own, seek professional help. Your child’s healthy development and academic performance depend on it.

Has your child had sleep issues that affected academic performance? Why not share your thoughts and experiences with us.

Always glad to hear from you,

Photo credit: Anomatily/Foter/CC BY-NC

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