October 23rd, 2020

Sleep and school success

By Submitted Article on October 23, 2019.

When a child is struggling in school, many people will look at test scores, behaviour in school, peer group, study habits and so on, but in fact, it might be as simple as looking at the child’s sleep habits.

Success at school requires students to maintain focus, stay on track, manage emotions and have self control. All of these skills rely greatly on a good night’s sleep. In a North American study of approximately 1,000 school-age children, researchers found that children that had difficulty falling asleep and woke up at least once a night were significantly more likely to have school achievement difficulties.

In the book “The Teenage Brain,” Dr. Frances Jensen points out that sleep provides a time for a person to strengthen learning and memories and to prioritize memories by breaking them up and organizing them. The more you learn, the more sleep you need to sleep to achieve success at school.

In today’s hustle and bustle, it is sometimes hard to ensure that children and youth get the proper amount of sleep they require. Although there is no definitive number of hours of sleep we need nightly, there are some suggested guidelines.” For school-aged children (ages 6-13), the National Sleep Foundation recommends 9-11 hours and for teens (ages 14-17) they recommend 8-10 hours of sleep.

For everyone that has tried to get a child to go to bed and to sleep it can be a struggle. Some key recommendations from experts would be to ensure that the child has a regular and consistent sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day reinforces the body’s sleep-and-wake cycle. Going to bed while hungry or overly full can cause discomfort throughout the night. The discomfort can cause the child not be able to sleep or to wake often during the night.

By limiting soft drinks, fried foods, sweets, other liquids and caffeine before bed, the child has a better opportunity for a restful sleep. Encourage physical activity during the day, fresh air and exercise all contribute to a sound sleep. One of the key suggestions for today’s youth is that of creating a restful environment. A darkened room set at a comfortable temperature will aid in a good night’s rest.

Even more worthy to note is the need to unplug from our digital world before bedtime. The light from LED screens delays the release of melatonin and makes it difficult for the brain to relax. Experts suggest that enforcing a no-screen policy one to two hours prior to bedtime will help those children that fight sleep each night. Many would say that the use of electronic devices before bed, in bed and as soon as waking, is one of the most disruptive issues with getting a good night’s sleep for people today.

Helping children and youth develop good sleeping habits will aid them in being more alert in class and able to retain information. Being alert and engaged in the classroom activities goes a long way to finding academic success and fostering good habits.

Dave Driscoll is the superintendent of Palliser School Division

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