Can a Lack of Sleep Affect School Performance?

By: Sarah Batista
By: Sarah Batista

November 14, 2005

Could the amount of sleep your child gets affect his or her performance in school? A recent study says yes.

Felice Bowling-Key is a single mother with two children, but despite her busy schedule, she consistently tries to get her nine-year-old daughter Emonnie into bed on time.

"It's like bread and water to her; it's part of her functioning," explained Bowling-Key.

Researchers at Brown Medical School recently found that children without the proper rest have trouble concentrating and learning in class. Emonnie is no different.

"When she's not rested, the teacher in her classroom becomes like the Charlie Brown teacher 'wha, wha, wha, wha', you can't focus," said Bowling-Key.

Dr. William Sterrett, assistant principal of Johnson Elementary School agrees with Bowling-Key. He says it's easy to spot a sleepy student.

"Teachers notice that they have their head down, they might not have the same attention span, they might not be engaged," said Sterrett.

In the more extreme situations, some students have even taken naps at school.

"We'd much rather have them sleep at home during a regular consistent bedtime than having to take instructional time to do that," said Sterrett.

The amount of sleep your child needs depends greatly on how old they are, doctors say the younger your child is, the more sleep their likely to need."

"Preschool to kind of early school years need about 11 hours...and that decreases as they get older up to about 8.5 for the high school students," said Dr. Karyn Wolfe of the Pediatric Association of Charlottesville.

Those extra Z's could mean the difference between failure or success.

Doctors add a lack of sleep can also be mistaken for Attention Deficit Disorder so if your child seems distracted, be honest and accurate with your pediatrician about their sleeping habits.

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