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  • Writer's pictureAlana Azzouni

Sleep: the vital factor to academic success

Being deprived of sleep is not something to take lightly. Sleep deprivation has a bidirectional relationship with mental illness and emotional disorders; meaning that each can cause the other (Bergin et al., 2018). Statistics show that children with unhealthy sleep habits tend to be more depressed than other children. Additionally, sleep affects learning. Well-rested children do better mentally and socially – they have better memory; longer attention spans; higher self-esteem. You might ask yourself, what exactly is an unhealthy sleep pattern for a child? Short, Gradisar, Lack & Wright (2013) note that an unhealthy sleep pattern may include:

  • sleeping less than six hours a night

  • having more than a two-hour difference between school-night and weekend bedtimes

Why does a lack of sleep have such a negative impact? As you can imagine, sleep deprivation decreases motivation, ability to concentrate or reason, speed and accuracy of information processing, memory, motor control, and emotion regulation. For children, this may come off as silly, angry or sad behaviour.

So, how many hours of sleep do your children need? The table below shows an average guide:

There are a few strategies that can be implemented to improve your child's sleep, and thus better their emotional wellbeing and academic performance. Some strategies I suggest are:

  • have the same bedtime and wake time seven days a week

  • have a bedtime routine that is calming, with dimmed lights

  • wake up without the use of an alarm

  • if school-age, keep daytime naps to a maximum of thirty minutes

  • eliminate conditions that disturb sleep, such as eating a large meal before bed, using devices and consuming caffeine within an hour of bedtime (this includes soft drinks and chocolate).

With all of this in mind, I urge you to reflect on your child's sleeping habits. Can it be improved? If so, act now. There is a long domino effect filled with positive impacts by simply implementing some strategies noted above.

Bergin, C., Bergin, D., Walker, S., Daniel, G., Fenton, A. & Subban, P. (2018). Child and adolescent development for educators. Cengage Learning Australia: VIC.

Short, M., Gradisar, M., Lack, L. & Wright, H. (2013). The impact of sleep on adolescent depressed mood, alertness, and academic performance. Journal of Adolescence, 36, 1025–1033.

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