Back to School, Back to Sleep
Fixing your children's sleep problems may improve their grades and their behavior.
The new school year is upon us. From bedtime battles to the misery of
morning call, summertime sleep habits die hard. Late summer nights combined
with early school start times, and the stresses of just being a kid, deprive
our children of essential sleep. And sleep deprivation often wreaks havoc with
health, academic performance, and behavior. It is an unrecognized epidemic.
From elementary school through high school and beyond, a great many of our
children are chronically sleep-deprived. With more than more than 2/3 of all
children having some kind of sleep problem, and most adolescents not getting
enough sleep, many will struggle to meet the barrage of new challenges,
demands, and emotions of a new school year. It is not widely recognized and
appreciated just how pervasive and critical quality sleep is for brain
development and how it directly influences daytime functioning, performance,
mood, and behavior. When was the last time your doctor or school teacher asked
about your child's sleep? Parents wouldn't think of letting their child skip
meals or run into a busy street, but staying up late is very often of little
concern. It shouldn't be.
Sleep Affects How Your Child Thinks, Feels and Functions and Impacts Academic Performance
More and more research studies demonstrate that daytime sleepiness from
chronic sleep deprivation and poor quality sleep has significant impacts on
daytime behavior and academic performance, as well as concentration, attention,
and mood. Even 20 fewer minutes of needed sleep may significantly affect
behavior in many areas. One study showed that those students with C's, D's and
F's got about 25 fewer minutes of sleep and went to bed an average of 40
minutes later than A and B students. The pediatric research findings are
startling and alarming:
- Poor sleepers reported being significantly more depressed, without energy,
tired, tense, moody, stressed, irritable, and less rested and alert than good
sleepers. Interestingly and importantly, they were also more likely to have a
negative self-image, which, in light of the above, is not surprising.
- Insufficient sleep has been associated with daytime fatigue, inability to
concentrate in school, ADHD, a tendency to doze off in class, problematic
behaviors, and lower levels of social skills. One study showed that teachers
believed that some children with sleep disturbances were hyperactive and less
- Persistent sleep problems are associated with learning difficulties
throughout the school years. In fact, several studies suggest specific academic
deficits, including poor school performance.
- Poorly performing first graders with sleep disordered breathing showed
significant improvement in their grades after treatment.
- Poorly performing seventh graders were 2-3 times more likely to have
frequent and loud snoring.
- Poorly performing middle schoolers were more likely to have snored in early
- Poor sleepers were more likely to display type A behavior patterns.
- Teenage insomnia has been related to anger, depression, difficulty with
school adjustments, and stress. And studies suggest that insomnia often begins
early in life and persists into adulthood.
- Sleep-disturbed elementary school-age children may have poorer coping
behaviors and display more behavioral problems at home and in school.
- Several studies report that more total sleep, earlier bedtimes, and later
weekday rise time are associated with better grades in school.
- Those with poor grades are more likely to sleep less, go to bed later, and
have more irregular sleep/wake habits.
- Failure rates on exams for medical students were markedly higher (42%) for
frequent snorers than for non-snorers (13%)