Slight Increase in Student Sleep Boosts Academic Performance


(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

For children to be healthy, it is essential for them to get adequate sleep. Health and other daily function problems can be linked to inadequate sleep. In fact, when kids get even small increases in sleep, new research has found that their grades improve.

The Examiner's Harold Mandel reports that a study at McGill University and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, as well as the Riverside School Board in Montreal, Canada found that elementary school students improved their academic performance by gaining more sleep.

The research findings were published in the journal Sleep Medicine.

If sleep was lengthened a cumulative average of 18.2 minutes over five nights, which is a total of 91 minutes of extra sleep, children's report card grades were significantly affected.

Furthermore, the researchers observed an improvement in sleep and academic performance in students if their schools offered a sleep education program.

For the intervention group, 18.2 minutes of sleep per night resulted in an improvement of 2.3% in the quality of sleep and a reduction of 2.3 minutes in the process of going to sleep.

Also, report card grades of the young people in the intervention group in English and mathematics improved impressively. The control group showed no changes.

The team of researchers used a scientific method called Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR), which used experiential learning that gave youngsters the qualifications needed for success in the real world, writes Ellainie Calangian of Science World Report.

Seventy-four healthy children between the ages of 7 and 11 were participants in the research. Parents were asked to put an ActiWatch on the non-dominant wrist of their child during four consecutive weeknights along with making a record of the children's bedtime and wake time. Researchers also asked for the children's report cards, said lead author and McGill professor Reut Gruber.

Over two-thirds of all young people have sleep problems. Not only can inadequate sleep affect academic performance, but also can result in a lack of energy, depression, irritability, stress, and tiredness.

Cynthia Lee writes on the McGill University website that the sleep education arm of the research was made up of six interactive classes of two hours each given over a period of six weeks. The course was offered during school time by the pupils' homeroom teachers.

The materials were developed and tailored to fit the child's grade level. The success of the program caused scientists to encourage the integration of sleep education programs in schools' health curriculum.

Lack of adequate sleep is especially common among teenagers. More middle and high schools have considered changing their starting times to accommodate teen's particular sleep schedule problems. In fact, experts such as members of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control have recommended that high schools "delay the start of class to 8:30 am or later."

The Statesman Journal reports that some schools agreed to do so, but in Canada, 43% of schools continue to start before 8:00 am.

Although pediatricians suggest that teenagers need 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep at the very least, 69% get less than 8 hours. More than one-half of teens are getting fewer hours of sleep than they require.

Sleep deprivation for teens can lead to higher levels of being late to school, symptoms of depression, and even substance abuse. writes that teenagers have:

"More alertness at 8 p.m. than earlier in the day" and "… greater alertness at 10 p.m."

Also, research from the Multiple Sleep Latency Test showed that:

"Adolescents became sleepier in the middle of the day."

It only makes sense that if teens are more alert as the day passes, schools should start at 8:30 am or after to make up for teens' late bedtimes, writes Isabel Burke, a seventh-grader in the Salem-Keizer school district, for the Statesman Journal.

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