sleep to succeed in school

Am I telling you to encourage your child to sleep at school? NOT! If your child is sleeping at school or falling asleep doing homework, it means your child is not getting the right amount and/or quality sleep at night.

Your child’s sleep has a significant impact on his performance in school.

For our children to be healthy they need good nutrition, exercise and enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that our elementary school children, ages 5 to 12, need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night. The quality and quantity of sleep determines learning and the retention of that learning.

Clinical psychologist Reut Gruber, director of the Attention Sleep and Behavior Laboratory at the Douglas Research Center in Quebec, Canada, led a research team that examined the sleep of 75 children ages 7 to 11. This study looked at the effect on children’s grades based on the quality of their sleep.

“Little or poor sleep is a significant risk factor for poor academic performance that is often ignored,” says Gruber. The study looked at the effect of poor sleep quality in several subject areas.

According to the study, Gruber says: “For math and languages, we need to use 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 bad or insufficient sleep.”

Lack of sleep also affects your child’s behavior in the classroom. Sleep-deprived children have more difficulty controlling their emotions and impulses.

“We know that lack of sleep can affect memory, creativity, verbal creativity, and even things like judgment and motivation and being (engaged) in the classroom,” explains Dr. Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington.

As a sleep consultant, I teach children’s sleep hygiene and coach families to develop healthy sleep habits.

My five nightwear for school-age boys:

1. Constant bedtime and waking

The same bedtime each night sets the body’s 24-hour rhythm. The chosen bedtime should allow the child to receive the recommended 10-11 hours of sleep per night. A consistent bedtime will teach your child’s body to anticipate and be ready for sleep. Make sleep a priority by making your bedtime a priority.

2. Bedtime routine

Twenty or thirty minutes before going to bed is the preparation for sleep. Blue lights from TV, tablets and smartphone screens wake up the brain. Therefore, do not watch the screen for 30 minutes before bed.

The child should not go to bed hungry, but should finish eating about two hours before bedtime. Avoid caffeine about six hours before bed.

Develop a routine to follow each night before bed. It can include a bath, pajamas and reading a book together and/or alone.

3. Bedroom environment

The room must be dark. Use blinds or room-darkening shades to keep the room dark at night or early in the morning.

The room temperature should be between 67 and 72 degrees.

4. White noise

Background or white noise blocks out other sounds in your home or neighborhood that could disturb your child’s sleep. White noise machines should be placed about 5 feet away from your child. You can also use a fan for white noise.

5. Sleeping is a privilege. Don’t use going to bed as a punishment. Sleep is as important as food for your child. Teach your son to value his dream.

May your children have a healthy school year of sleeping and learning!


Sleep efficiency (but not sleep duration) of healthy school-age children is associated with math and language scores, by Reut Gruber, Gail Somerville, Paul Enros, Soukaina Paquin, Myra Kestler, Elizabeth Gillies-Poitras, published in the journal Sleep Medicine:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *