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Poor Sleeping Habits Hurt Kids at School

A Bad Night's Sleep Affects Children's Academic Performance
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 23, 2005 -- A major problem behind poor performance at school may lie in the bedroom rather than in the classroom.

New research suggests that poor sleeping habits and disturbed sleep can negatively affect children's thinking skills and academic performance and should be considered when poor student performance becomes an issue.

But researchers say many of the common causes of disturbed sleep, such as sleep-disordered breathing, are reversible, and studies show that treatment can correct the problem and help children behave and perform better at school.

Children's Sleep Should Be Considered at School

Researchers say most children need about nine hours of sleep a night to perform at optimum levels. But many children fail to get the recommended amount of sleep due to their family's schedule, work, early school start times, and childhood sleep disorders.

In the study, researchers reviewed 21 studies on children's sleep and academic performance. They found that poor sleep quality, erratic sleeping schedules, and late bedtimes and early rise times are associated with impaired academic performance among children from middle school through college years.

They say the results, which appear in the September issue of the Journal of School Health, suggest that poor sleep should be considered as a contributing factor to poor student performance.

Better Sleep Improves Academic Performance

"These children and their families should be asked about regularity and duration of sleep, bedtime resistance, sleep onset delay, night-wakings, sleep-disordered breathing, and increased day-time sleepiness," write researcher Howard Taras, MD, of the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues.

"In many cases, when disordered breathing at night is the cause, intervention may not only improve sleep, but improve academic performance as well," says Taras in a news release.

For example, several studies showed that children with disrupted sleep from sleep-disordered breathing showed improvement in their performance at school and their behavior after surgical treatment.

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