Sleep plays a major role in our health. Adults who miss sleep tend to drag through the day, but for kids it plays a major role in their development. Melissa Locker from Time writes on a recent study, led by Reut Gruber, researched how sleep affected children’s performance in math and language. They looked at not just time spent in bed, but the time spent sleeping, Gruber said:
“Sleep efficiency is the proportion of the amount of time you slept to the amount of time you were in bed.”
She also explained the reason for choosing math and language rather than lumping in academics as a whole:
“For math and languages, we need to use the skills that are called ‘executive functions’—things like working memory, planning, not being distracted. The hardware that supports those skills is in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which is very sensitive to the effects of poor sleep or insufficient sleep.”
Her team had 75 child participants between the ages of 7 and 11. The children were given a wristwatch-like device called an actigraphy that tracked their sleep by measuring movement. Researcher averaged the data over the course of five nights to get a sense of the children’s sleep patterns and compared it with the kids’ report card grades.
The researchers found that greater sleep efficiency yielded better scores in math and languages. However, grades in science and art weren’t affected significantly.
The findings of this study underscore the importance of paying attention to any irregularities in a child’s performance. The simple answer may be that the kid isn’t getting enough sleep.
“I think many kids might have some sleep issues that nobody is aware of. And if the pediatrician doesn’t ask about it, we don’t know that it’s there. Regular screening for possible sleep issues is particularly important for students who exhibit difficulties in math, languages, or reading.”
For parents who want to start imposing a stricter sleep schedule: The National Sleep Foundation recommends kids ages five to 12 get 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night, whereas teens need about nine hours.
Read more at Time
Photo Credit: Shutterstock