A new study that focuses on the problem of kids not getting enough sleep has shown that sleep deprivation among students is now becoming such problem that it is impacting academic achievement levels worldwide. The good news, however, is these kinds of losses aren't permanent. They can be reversed if kids start getting the amount of nightly sleep that they need.
The research, performed at Boston College, found that the problem appeared to be most acute in richer countries with United States leading the way with the highest percentage of students who regularly don't get a sufficient amount of rest. According to the study, 73% of 9- and 10-year-olds and 80% of 13- and 14-year olds don't get enough sleep on a regular basis.
Those numbers are very high compared to the average, which is 57% for the 9-10 group and 47% for 13-14 year olds.
Other countries with the most sleep-deprived youngsters were New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Australia, England, Ireland and France. High-performing Finland is also among the most lacking in sleep.
Countries with the best records for getting enough sleep include Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Japan and Malta. The analysis was part of the huge data-gathering process for global education rankings – the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).
Chad Minnich, who is a part of the TIMSS and PIRLS International Study Center, explains that people tend to underestimate the impact of a full night's sleep on academic outcomes. The less sleep each students gets, the lower their achievement in math, reading and science.
He added that students lacking sleep are at the same disadvantage as those lacking food, such as a lack of concentration and a reduced ability to learn.
According to Minnich, teachers are reporting having to make adjustments to their lesson plans to accommodate students who lagging because they're not sleeping enough. Because of this, in addition to hamstringing themselves, tired kids are dragging down the achievement of others in their classrooms.
"Sleepiness is a problem at all stages that are relevant to learning, memory and academic performance," says Derk-Jan Dijk, director of the Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey.
Research into sleep disorders and brain function has shown the importance of sleep in memory and consolidating information.
Without sleep, the brain struggles to absorb and retain ideas.
"There is a growing interest in the associations between adequate sleep and academic performance," says Prof. Dijk.