School Tests And Sleep

A big study of more than 900,000 children is claiming to prove that there is a big link between good quality sleep and school test results. This is considered all the more important because marks in early tests can make a big difference to the future education achievements of the children involved.

Think of it this way, a smart kid who is suffering a lack of sleep underperforms in a test at 10 years old. Instead of being fast tracked, they are stuck with slower learners for their entire high school education… and end up never fulfilling their potential.

You can read an excellent detailed article on the report, which was coordinated by Boston College, at the BBC Website here.

Key Results Of The Tests

- More than 73% of US Children were found to be suffering from lack of sleep

- Other countries with sleep-deprived children include New Zealand, Australia, England and Finland.

- There was not a clear relationship between sleep and achievement, for example Finland has a high level of educational achievement, yet ranks highly on the sleep deprivation scale.

- Teachers noted that having a few tired students meant having to slow down (or even ‘dumb down’) the lesson for the entire class.

Hang On A Moment…

One thing I did notice about the study is that the quality of sleep was reported by Parents and Teachers, rather than the children themselves. With parents, I would have to ask about differences in the ‘protectiveness’ in the answers. Would parents from certain cultures be more likely to worry about the sleep patterns of their children (and maybe report on them differently) than others?

Teachers might be a better sourced to tell the difference, however there is always room for a cause / effect bias creeping in unintentionally here. For example, a slow learner might be labeled as having disrupted sleep to explain their slowness.

I’m sure there were some controls in place in this large study. What I like to do here at the SleepWell times is to offer alternative perspectives – to get you thinking about different possibilities which explain the results, even if you decide they are not correct!

Computers And Mobile Phones Blamed

The reports on this study seemed to take some raw statistics and immediately turn this into a witch-hunt against computers and smart phones in children’s bedrooms. Some even included all knowing quotes about how light from computer screens affects the biology of sleep far more than just watching the TV.

I guess this is just the natural progression of things. TVs were once blamed, then it was console games and game-boys… now the phones. Well, at least I never had to defend myself from reading comics with a torch!

If 3 out of every 4 children are really ‘suffering’ from sleep deprivation to the extent that it is ruining their educations – then for me it is time we changed the definition of sleep deprivation.