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Sleep Habits and Academic Performance

Child sleeping in school as part of a habit

It’s Time to Lose Sleep Over Not Getting Enough Sleep

So your kid wants to stay up an extra hour. Whether that extra hour is for TV, video games, computer time, or to complete homework, that lost hour of sleep can do more than simply make your kid grouchy the next day—it can have substantial impact on academic performance.

A recent article in New Yorker Magazine called Snooze or Lose* compiled findings from a variety of studies on sleep deprivation in children. Across the board, the results from these studies said essentially the exact same thing: a child’s number of sleep hours is directly linked to academic performance.

Children’s brains are in a growth stage until the age of 21, and the majority of that growth occurs while children sleep, so even a short reduction in sleep time—even as little as 15 minutes—can have detrimental impact on academic performance.

Some of the findings from these studies include:

  • Standardized test scores among sleep-reduced students were roughly 7 points lower than among students who got a full night sleep
  • Measurement tools showed that, during class time, one hour of sleep loss is equivalent to the loss of two years of cognitive growth
  • Identification of a link to high school grade points. For teenagers, 15 extra minutes of sleep can mean the difference between an A and a B

Using MRI scans, scientists are able to identify how the brain processes information at night. During the day, each separate area of the brain temporarily absorbs information, similar to a holding tank. During sleep, the day’s absorbed information is processed and relocated to permanent storage areas. And, each stage of sleep plays a different role in the processing of information.

After a particularly grueling day of class—think mental exhaustion—kids need even longer sleep time so that the brain can properly process and store information.

So, as a parent, how regimented should you be regarding bedtimes? If you are like most parents, then a strict bedtime during the week falls by the wayside when Friday hits. But one researcher found that sleep loss is cumulative and another, that every missed hour of weekend sleep creates a cumulative sleep debt.

Read the entire Snooze or Lose article here.

*Snooze or Lose was written by Po Bronson with files from Ashley Merryman.

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