Sleep and School: What a Difference an Hour Makes

Sleep and School: What a Difference an Hour Makes

Oct. 22, 2012 | Caroline Miller

It's not like we didn't know it, but now we have evidence: Kids who get more sleep behave better in school. Measurably better.

Researchers in Montreal gave one group of kids ages 7 to 11 an average of 27 more minutes of sleep than they had typically gotten, and found that it cut down significantly on emotional volatility and restless and impulsive behavior at school, according to findings published in Pediatrics.

On the other hand, cutting about an hour of sleep from a similar group had the opposite effect.

Okay, there were only 37 kids in the group, and the sleep experiment only lasted for five nights. And if you're wondering about that random-sounding 27 minutes, that's because while they got the children in bed an hour earlier than usual, it seems they only actually slept half that time.

But still. Their teachers, who didn't know who was pulling extra sleep and who was deprived, recorded significant differences on behavior scales for attention, impulsivity, and emotional lability—crying, outbursts, becoming easily frustrated.

It's worth noting because it's easy to underestimate how much lack of sleep affects kids' performance in school, and how important it is to address that when you're trying to sort out problem behavior.

When my kids were in high school, and staying up all hours to study or finish projects they waited too long to start, we used to quote a line we heard another mom use: “Go to bed. Get a B.”  Maybe that should be amended: Go to bed. Get an A.



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