Healthy Kids: Poor Sleep Can Hinder Learning

Article excerpt

Sleep routines have long been considered a crucial part of a child's ability to learn and focus in school, but new studies are showing that poor sleep patterns can actually disturb the body's ability to absorb new information.

Children with either no regular bedtime or a later bedtime scored lower in reading and math than those with a regular bedtime, according to the study of more than 11,000 children in England. The study, published in the "Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health," shows just how drastically a lack of sleep can affect growing minds.

Summer can dramatically affect sleep schedules, particularly for children.

Even children who went to sleep at a set time every night during the school year may have relaxed rules and spend more late nights in front of the television or computer. Although this is a common occurrence for children taking full advantage of summer, many will find it hard to get back into the "early to bed, early to rise" routine.

Parents should consider adjusting sleep schedules one week before the beginning of the school year, said Dr. Shalini Paruthi, director of the Pediatric Sleep and Research Center at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center. This will give children time to readjust to their sleep schedule and feel better rested when school starts.

"Sleep is closely related to so many aspects of a child's behavior," Paruthi said. "Children who do not get enough sleep can easily become irritable and moody. They may act out more and exhibit hyperactive behaviors because they are so tired. We certainly know that poor sleep can lead to poor performance in school, but it can significantly affect a child's social life and ability to interact with others as well."

Despite the importance of sleep, most children (and adults) get less than the recommended amount of sleep.

Ten hours of sleep each night are recommended for grade school through adolescent-aged children. …