The Importance of Sleep for Learning

Getting enough sleep is essential for memory, problem solving and executive function in kids. This is supported by recent studies which have found a strong link between sleep and academic success.

Children who get the optimal amount of sleep for their age acquire information and retain it more effectively. Those who don’t get enough sleep suffer from a reduced attention span and executive function. They’re more likely to display challenging behaviours.

While most parents recognise that sleep is important for learning, the reality is that many young people today are suffering from sleep deprivation.

Getting kids to go to bed at a reasonable hour has always been a battle for parents, but it has become more of a problem recently due to technology. Electronic devices can keep children up playing games and chatting on social media late into the night, often without their parents’ knowledge. Consumption of popular energy drinks also has a detrimental impact on sleep.

Adolescents and Sleep

Adolescents are particularly at risk of sleep deprivation due to the biological processes involved in puberty which make it harder to fall asleep early and get up early.

Lack of sleep can not only affect academic performance in teenagers, but can lead to more risk-taking behaviour. The important changes taking place in the brain during adolescence mean that quality sleep is essential for growth and development.

Many teenagers fall into the bad habit of staying up late to cram for exams the next day. This is very counterproductive as consolidation of learning happens for adolescents during the REM phase of sleep. REM can only take place when teenagers have achieved deep sleep over several hours, meaning they require a solid night of sleep after studying to perform at their best.

Sleep is needed to organise memories and learning. It affects problem solving, concentration and memory. The more learning that takes place, the more important quality sleep becomes to retain knowledge. According to experts, high school students need between 8-10 hours of sleep per day for optimal health, while younger kids need 10-12 hours.

Healthy Sleep Habits

There are many things parents can do to instil healthy sleep habits in children:

  • Establish a consistent routine. From a young age, children should be accustomed to going to bed at the same time each night.
  • Allow enough time to wind down. It’s a great idea to read a story together or chat with your child about their day before bed to give them time to wind down. This helps to clear his or her mind and can help those who struggle with insomnia.
  • Limit screen time. Not only do devices overstimulate kids before bed, but the LED lighting also affects sleep hormones. One hour of screen-free time before bed is recommended.
  • Exercise and diet. Kids who eat well and exercise regularly will enjoy better quality sleep and will be more inclined to stick to a healthy sleep routine.

Sleep and academic success go hand in hand, so make sure your child isn’t missing out.