An Extra 27 Minutes Can Make A Difference

Sleep and academic performance in school age children

Several studies have been conducted regarding the importance and function of sleep, each addressing if we get enough of it, how it effects our moods, weight, health, and cognitive abilities – in general its impact on our overall performance.

We incur a consistent sleep deficit in our fast paced, overbooked, multi-task lifestyles. Prolonged exposure to computers, television, and other types of media add to the detriment.

We’re moodier and more volatile without a functional minimum of six hours. But some require more rest than others, as sleep is necessary for cellular repair and mental recuperation. Yet we habitually ignore our instinct to prioritize one of the more health-benefiting and cost-free pleasures in life – sleep. Even to a point where we put lives in danger.

Both the National Sleep Foundation and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety have reported one in seven drivers between the ages of 16 to 24 admit to driving while impaired by drowsiness in the last year, which based on some research is as statistically dangerous as being distracted or operating a vehicle while inebriated. Additionally, one in 10 licensed drivers confess to nodding off at the wheel.

As adults, we feel we can suck it up and struggle through it. Unfortunately, the overscheduling of our daily lives seems to have bled over into our children. There are several signs that indicate parents have overwhelmed their children with one too many activities.

For example, when was the last time you noticed your child doing absolutely nothing, frolicking about in the backyard carefree with one of their friends? Has the car become like a second home? Are your kids frequently irritable and anxious? Are mealtimes synonymous with a drive-thru?

Have your child’s grades started to drop? Grades can slip for several reasons, including simply struggling with the material. School should be a priority, but often the extracurricular activities they have jammed into their daily calendar can take away from that – inhibiting necessary study time, which these days can average up to two or more hours a night.

Based on a Bernards Township School District Study, they found 47 percent of sixth graders were completing up to two hours of homework a night. The average age of a sixth grader is 11.

Ideally, you want your kid to enjoy and reap the benefits of band practice, cheerleading, soccer, drama club, and the half-dozen other activities they’ve committed to. The problem is the expectation of that constant level of performance may be unrealistic. Children, and to be honest we too, are not built to run on all cylinders all the time. And what about the impact of the stress and lack of sleep they endure in order to meet the demands of the multiple tasks?

Children require more sleep than adults, with the logical consideration their minds and bodies are still developing. Children aged 7 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours, while 12 to 18-year olds need at least eight to nine hours per day.

A study in Pediatrics found the key to more academic success for school-aged children was not extra flute lessons but 27 additional minutes of sleep per night. The “Impact of Sleep Extension and Restriction on Children’s Emotional Lability and Impulsivity” examined the impact of moderate sleep extensions and restrictions on child behavior.

Emotional lability is the inability to control expression of emotions or regularly displaying emotions that are disproportionate to what is occurring such as ill-timed fits of laugher. The condition can be a sign something is cognitively amiss.

Researchers found 27 additional minutes of sleep among children ages 7 to 11 resulted in significant improvement in their ability to regulate their emotions, limiting restless-impulsive behavior and daytime sleepiness. Conversely, children who decreased their sleep by 54 minutes were associated with detectable emotional deterioration. Study authors said the findings support the importance of sleep among school-age children and the need for greater efforts to eliminate child sleep problems.

Well-rested children can allow educators to teach more often in lieu of having to stop and start, correcting the exhaustion-fueled behavioral problems. Children are also more alert and prepared for learning when they are not overscheduled and stressed.

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