Research carried out recently into the sleeping patterns of primary school-age children found that children who get between nine and eleven hours’ sleep each night learn better. Children who get less than nine hours’ sleep (even those who get eight hours’) are less able to learn.
The research was conducted by researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and concluded that lack of adequate sleep damages the core skills children need to learn properly. The researchers emphasise the need for parents to be aware of how important sleep is for children’s development.
The study examined around 140 children age 6 and 7 years in different schools. They took details of their sleeping habits and collected data about their abilities at school.
The core learning skills of memory and motivation were disrupted by lack of a good amount of sleep, and were also found lacking in those children who didn’t have a proper bedtime routine. The children’s language and writing abilities – “linguistic knowledge, grammar and spelling rules” – were also impaired if they had insufficient sleep.
One of the researchers, Ramon Cladellas, said, “Nowadays, there is great concern because children are glued to the television, computers, and video games, but the same importance is not given to them going to bed at the same time every night.”
Previous research into sleep and learning, conducted by the University of Michigan, found that children with behavioural problems (i.e. bullies) were much more likely to be children who did not get adequate sleep or who had some form of sleep disorder, because they do not have the “emotional regulation necessary to control aggression”.
Another such study, conducted in Finland, found that children who lacked sleep could exhibit behaviour similar to children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, perhaps because their bodies were over-producing adrenaline to keep themselves awake and active when tired, making them seem overstimulated.