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Parents have been urged to take televisions, computers, and mobile phones out of children’s bedrooms as they cause anxiety and prevent sleep which ruins school performance, a study has suggested.

sleep for school

Losing as little as an hour’s sleep can ruin a child’s performance in school, according to the study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. Pupils who have late nights find maths problems harder to solve and have poorer memory skills. They also have worse attention spans and are likely to have behaviour problems at home and school. However, bringing bedtime forward – even by sixty minutes – makes youngsters calmer and better able to concentrate.

The paper’s lead author, psychologist Dr. Jennifer Vriend of Dalhousie University in Canada, said, “One of the biggest culprits for inadequate and disturbed sleep is technology. Many teenagers sleep with their phones and they are awakened regularly by it ringing or vibrating throughout the night when they get a text, email, or Face book message. Having televisions and games consoles in the bedroom is also a problem. It sets up the brain to see the room as an entertainment zone rather than a quiet, sleepy environment. So, when a teenager is playing a violent video game regularly in his bedroom, his brain starts to associate it as a place where he should be on edge and ready for danger; the brain becomes wired to not want to sleep in that environment.”

Dr. Vriend added, “Adequate sleep leads to better emotional stability, more positive mood, and improved attention, which are all likely to improve academic success. Furthermore, when we sleep, what we learned during the day gets consolidated, so children are losing out on two levels.”

The latest study focused on thirty-two children between eight and twelve years of age who averaged nearly nine hours of sleep per night. For the first week, the children maintained their usual routines. After that, the group was split in two, half cutting down on their sleep for four consecutive days, while the rest had more sleep than normal. On average, those who went to bed an hour earlier than usual got seventy-three extra minutes of sleep than those who went to bed an hour later, but the consequences were significant.

After each four-day spell, the children were given basic tests to assess maths fluency, attention span, and both short-term and working memory. Parents kept a log of their youngsters’ behaviour. The study states, “Even modest differences in sleep duration, accumulated over a few days, can affect critical cognitive and emotional functions in children. One can assume that more chronic sleep loss would result in much greater impairments. This study highlights the need to educate healthcare professionals, educators, parents and children about the importance of healthy sleep habits and the potential negative consequences of inadequate sleep.”

Results revealed those youngsters who slept less had impaired functioning on measures of positive affective response, emotion regulation, short-term memory, working memory, and aspects of attention. “Results suggest that even modest differences in sleep duration over just a few nights can have significant consequences for children’s daytime functioning,“ the authors wrote in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. “’These findings demonstrate the important impact of sleep duration on children’s daytime functioning.”

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