Back to School, Back to Sleep

Fixing your children's sleep problems may improve their grades and their behavior.

From the WebMD Archives


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 attentive.
  • 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 childhood.
  • 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%)

From Elementary to High School, Sleep Problems Are Pervasive and Widespread

You may be surprised to learn how prevalent sleep problems are. In studies of elementary school-age children, nearly 40% showed some kind of sleep problem, and 10% had daytime sleepiness.