A hard lesson—the way poor sleep impacts on schooling

October 11, 2017, University of Leeds
Credit: xiaphias/Wikipedia

More than a third of primary school children are failing to get sufficient sleep, according to research to be presented at the British Sleep Society conference tomorrow (October 12th).

The study has linked poor sleep with difficulties in paying attention in class, keeping up with work, forgetfulness and absenteeism.

The NHS recommendation is that children of that age should get ten 10 hours sleep per night.The study discovered that out of 1,100 children aged six to 11, 36 per cent were getting eight hours or less sleep on a weekday night.

There was a sizeable minority - one in seven or 15.2 per cent - who were getting seven hours or less a night.

The researchers found links between poor sleep and children having access to mobile phones or computer devices in their bedroom. They say should consider removing from their children's bedrooms.

The study, conducted by the University of Leeds and commissioned by the bed manufacturer Silentnight, was designed to provide an insight into the sleeping patterns of young children in the UK, an area that has previously received little attention from scientists.

Lead researcher, psychologist Dr Anna Weighall from the School of Psychology, set out to assess the use of technology such as mobile phones, tablets and computers in the run up to bedtime, the availability of technology in the bedroom, and what impact that was having on children's sleep.

In this clip Dr. Anna Weighall describes the context of the research and the main findings. Credit: University of Leeds

The researchers identified that children who had access to technology in their bedroom were more likely to experience a shorter night's sleep. One in 3 parents (34%) reported that their children use a smart phone, tablet, or other electronic device in the hour before bedtime, and many children sleep with ready access to electronic devices.

Dr Weighall said: "There is a clear relationship between technology use and shorter sleep duration. We asked parents if their child had technology in the bedroom, and having the technology in the bedroom is associated with much shorter sleep durations in children.

"Where parents are able to encourage their children not to have technology in the bedroom at all, the sleep outcomes are much better."

It's not known what might be causing that effect but Dr Weighall has a number of theories. She said that scientists know that the light from a screen excites the brain, making it harder for those children who are using their phone in the run up to bedtime or in bed, to switch off. Unable to sleep, they could also get themselves locked in a vicious cycle of further technology use.

Dr Weighall added: "It is conceivable that if a child can't sleep, they are more likely to pick up their phone.

In this clip Dr. Weighall describes the impact of a lack of sleep on a child's performance at school. Credit: University of Leeds

"When your child enjoys being on technology, it is quite difficult to have that row at bedtime to say 'you are not taking it into the bedroom' - my intuition it is simply that if you don't have it in the you are going to have a longer gap between stopping using the technology and actually going to sleep."

The parents or carers of 1,100 children aged from six to 11 were asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire about their own and their children's sleep. The study was observational and therefore identified associations between factors rather than direct causal links.

Just under a third of children (29 per cent) were regularly telling their parents that worrying about school work was keeping them awake. A smaller group - around one in six - (16 per cent) told their parents they found it difficult to sleep because of concerns about bullying or friendship.

The survey also found that in some families poor sleep seemed to be a problem faced by children and adults alike, with 40 per cent of parents saying they did not get enough sleep. In fact a quarter of parents said they slept for five hours or less a night. Among the parents, 16.5 per cent said they were dissatisfied with how long their children slept.

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, Silentnight's sleep expert, said: "Sadly I'm not surprised by the impact a lack of sleep is having on the nation's children. It is so important for parents to recognise how essential good quality restorative sleep is for children.

In this clip, Dr. Weighall describes the links between mobile phone and tablet use in the run up to bed time and a reduce sleep duration. Credit: University of Leeds

"Ten hours might seem a lot but children's brains are constantly growing and developing, particularly at primary school age, and having time to rest and recover after a busy day at school is vital.

"It's interesting to see how much parents' sleep affects children's and I think this boils down to establishing a good routine for everyone in the household. This means the whole family limiting technology around bedtime and allowing time to wind down before going to sleep.

"Concentration and the ability to learn can be severely affected by lack of sleep. By establishing a regular sleep routine like this the whole family will sleep better, perform better at school and work, and be happier and healthier as a result."

Explore further: Children's sleep quality linked to mothers' insomnia

Related Stories

Children's sleep quality linked to mothers' insomnia

August 31, 2017
Children sleep more poorly if their mothers suffer from insomnia symptoms - potentially affecting their mental wellbeing and development - according to new research by the University of Warwick and the University of Basel.

When moms don't sleep well, neither do their kids

September 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—If mom is an insomniac, her kids are likely to be poor sleepers, too.

Enforcing a weekday bedtime could help your child get sufficient sleep

May 23, 2017
Enforcing rules about bedtimes could help your child get the sleep they need on weekdays, according to new research published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

Preterm children have more medical sleep problems but fall asleep more independently

September 21, 2017
A new study suggests that while healthy preterm children have more medical sleep problems than full-term children, they are more likely to fall asleep independently.

Improving sleep in children with ADHD has some lessons for all parents

June 5, 2017
Every evening around the world, parents put their children to bed, hoping they'll go to sleep easily. For most parents that's exactly what happens. But for some kids, sleep does not come easily and evenings are a battle.

Experts launch online child-sleep improvement tool for parents

November 2, 2016
Parents of children who don't sleep well have a new resource to help them develop better sleep habits and routines for their child.

Recommended for you

Eating iron-fortified grain improves students' attention, memory

July 18, 2018
Adolescent students in a rural school in India who consumed an iron-biofortified version of the grain pearl millet exhibited improved attention and memory compared to those who consumed conventional pearl millet, according ...

Lowering hospitals' Medicare costs proves difficult

July 18, 2018
A payment system that provides financial incentives for hospitals that reduce health-care costs for Medicare patients did not lower costs as intended, according to a new study led by Washington University School of Medicine ...

Vaping tied to blood clots—in mice

July 18, 2018
A new study involving mice raises another concern about the danger of e-cigarettes in humans after experiments showed that short-term exposure to the device's vapors appeared to increase the risk of clot formation.

People who tan in gyms tan more often, and more addictively, than others, new research shows

July 18, 2018
Gyms are places people go to get healthier. But nearly half the gyms in the U.S. contain a potentially addictive carcinogen—tanning beds, report UConn researchers in the July 18 issue of JAMA Dermatology.

Omega 3 supplements have little or no heart or vascular health benefit: review

July 17, 2018
New evidence published today shows there is little or no effect of omega 3 supplements on our risk of experiencing heart disease, stroke or death.

Study shows that people most affected by alcohol also most impacted by sleep deprivation

July 17, 2018
A team of researchers from the German Aerospace Center and Forschungszentrum Jülich has found that people who are most susceptible to alcohol intoxication are also most susceptible to cognitive problems due to sleep deprivation. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.