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How Important Is Sleep To School Success?


A person needs eight hours of sleep to stay healthy and alert, right? Wrong. While adults can thrive on eight hours of sleep per night, children require much more time snoozing in order to accommodate their developing minds and bodies. Medical professionals suggest that children aged 7-12 sleep ten or eleven hours per night while teens aged 13-18 get nine to ten hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, The National Sleep Foundation says that only 5 percent of high school students get eight hours of rest a night and all school students sleep an hour less at night then their parents did as children. 


What is most frightening about these numbers are the correlation between lack of sleep in children and the following issues:


  • An increased risk of obesity and diabetes.

  • An increased risk of moodiness, depression and anxiety.

  • A weakened immune system.

  • A decreased ability to pay attention or focus on tasks.

  • A decreased ability to learn new information.

  • General memory and cognition problems.

  • Overall lowered academic achievement.


Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University conducted a study recently in which he wanted to ascertain how much sleep deprivation could effect cognitive functioning. His results were shocking: just 30 minutes of sleep deprivation each night caused sixth grade students to perform on the level of fourth graders. Another study conducted on 7,000 Minnesota high school students found that those who earned As received about 15 minutes more sleep per night than those who received Bs and that those who received Bs got an average of 11 minutes more sleep per night than those who received Cs.


More frighteningly, some studies have found that chronic sleep deprivation can cause permanent cognition issues and learning disabilities in children – problems that won’t go away even if a child begin to sleep on a regular schedule.


Many parents today believe that they are enriching their children’s lives with sports, music lessons, and other activities. But when these extracurricular activities begin to take time from getting a good night’s sleep, parents may be doing more harm than good. Schools should also be taking the importance of student sleep into account – both for the health of their pupils and for better academic results. When a school in Edna, Minnesota, started school an hour later in the morning, their students’ SAT scores shot up more than 200 points in a single year. Another school that made sleep a priority for its high school students saw a 16 percent drop in teen car accidents.


Written by Elliott Shostak

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