1. Children and Sleep: If They Don’t Snooze, They Lose

Children and Sleep: If They Don’t Snooze, They Lose

Published on 31 Jan 2015
General Article
Shen-Li Lee
If your child isn’t getting enough sleep, his or her performance in school drops. Well that’s obvious. But what may not be obvious is how significantly it impacts your child if he or she misses just one hour of sleep a night.   Numerous studies have linked lack of sleep to poor academic performance as well as physical and mental health problems and a greater tendency to alcohol and drug abuse.   One sleep deprivation study conducted on a group of elementary school students showed that sixth graders, missing one hour of sleep a night, performed in class at the level of a fourth grader.   What is apparent is that getting enough sleep is vital to academic success.   According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:  
  • Sleepiness and poor sleep quality are prevalent among university students, affecting their academic performance and daytime functioning.
  • Students with symptoms of sleep disorders are more likely to receive poor grades in classes such as math, reading and writing than peers without symptoms of sleep disorders.
  • College students with insomnia have significantly more mental health problems than college students without insomnia.
  • College students who pull “all-nighters” are more likely to have a lower GPA.
  • Students who stay up late on school nights and make up for it by sleeping late on weekends are more likely to perform poorly in the classroom. This is because, on weekends, they are waking up at a time that is later than their internal body clock expects. The fact that their clock must get used to a new routine may affect their ability to be awake early for school at the beginning of the week when they revert back to their old routine.
  Why is sleep important?   According to Harvard Health Publications, these are some of the reasons why it is important to get enough sleep:  
  • Learning and memory – sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
  • Metabolism and weight – chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
  • Lack of sleep contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime.
  • Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
  • Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.
  According to Health Magazine, getting a sufficient amount of sleep also has these effects:  
  • Spurs creativity - your brain reorganizes and restructures memory, which may result in more creativity. Additionally, people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.
  • Improved physical performance – a Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.
  • Facilitates weight loss – researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep.
  • Not sleeping enough can lead to depression.
  Why are many children going to sleeping later and not getting enough sleep?  
  • Hectic family schedules - reluctance of late-working parents to pack their kids off to bed early, sheer parental exhaustion allows kids to win the sleeptime skirmishes.
  • Over-scheduling with too many extra-curricular activities.
  • Overstimulation in children who have TVs in their bedrooms, play video games too close to bedtime, or even texting on their phones.
  • Early start times of school - many of our teenagers suffer from significant sleep deficit over time.
    Some signs that your child is not sleeping enough  
  • He or she is constantly falling asleep in the car even on short trips.
  • Eye rubbing, irritability, and aggressive behavior.
  • a child who needs a lot of prodding to start moving in the morning may be sleeping too late
  How much sleep is enough for your child?   There's no magic number of hours of sleep that all children in a particular age group must have, but there are guidelines as to the number of hours of slumber they should aim for.   These articles give some good recommendations as to how much sleep your child should be getting at a given age.     *This article orginally appeared on Figur8.net here.   *Photo credit: Mike Bitzenhofer

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