The problem of sleep deprivation in adolescents is well documented. But what about sleep deprivation
in younger students? Is a lack of sleep interfering with your students' learning? Education World
recently talked with two experts about the effects of sleep deprivation on elementary school students.
Included: Resources on the importance of sleep to share with students and
"Studies looking at kids in kindergarten through third or fourth grade show that 85 percent
[of kids in those grades] are not meeting their nightly sleep requirements," James
B. Maas told Education World. Maas, a professor of psychology at Cornell
University, is the author of two books about sleep, Power Sleep for adults and the
recently published Remmy and the Brain Train:
Traveling Through the Land of Good Sleep for children.
Carl Hunt and James B. Maas offer the following tips to help parents help children
develop healthy sleep habits:
* Establish a reasonable bedtime. Most elementary school children should be going
to bed by 9 p.m. Some children who require more sleep might need an earlier bedtime.
* Allow sufficient time to wind down before bedtime. Children should not be engaging
in intense activities, such as watching television, playing video games, or using
the computer, right before they go to bed. They need about an hour of down time to
prepare to fall asleep. Such relaxing activities as taking a bath or reading a story
can help children fall asleep more easily.
* Avoid giving children caffeinated beverages and foods high in sugar in the late
afternoon and evening.
* Provide a quiet sleeping area that is conducive to sleep. Maintain a consistent
nightly routine. Children should go to bed at the same time every night, including
"Kids tell me that they fall asleep on the bus," Maas continued, "and teachers say that they
have to send kids to the nurse's office to nap."
Dr. Carl Hunt, director of the National
Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR), a component of the National Institutes of Health,
agrees. "We know from talking with teachers that children are sleepy in the classroom and that
this is a significant problem," he told Education World.
CAUSES OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION
Both Hunt and Maas said that elementary school children require at least nine hours of sleep a night
to be well rested, and some need even more. Activities such as after-school athletics, watching
television, and using the computer often take away from sleep time, however.
Families in general are not going to bed as early as they need to, both experts add. Parents
who are staying up too late to get everything done, often keep their children up too late as well.
SIGNS THAT A CHILD IS SLEEP-DEPRIVED
Maas and Hunt both say that children react to inadequate sleep differently than adults do. Adults
who do not get enough sleep generally yawn and feel sleepy all day. Like adults, sleep-deprived
children are hard to rouse and exhibit sleepiness in the morning. Unlike adults, however, children
generally become more active -- and less able to concentrate -- later in the day.
Because they become increasing more "wired" as the day progresses, sleep-deprived children often
have trouble going to sleep at night. Parents may not realize that their children are not getting
EDUCATING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES ABOUT SLEEP
Most people don't know much about sleep, according to Maas. "Forty-seven percent of the American
population thinks the brain shuts down in sleep," he said. "But during sleep the brain is highly
active, perhaps even more active than when we're awake."
Parents and children can learn what goes on in the brain during sleep by reading Remmy and
the Brain Train together. Reading, the author points out, also is a good way to relax before
going to bed.
Teachers can help children learn about the importance of sleep through the NCSDR's Sleep
Well, Do Well Star Sleeper educational campaign, featuring cartoon character Garfield the
cat. This program is aimed primarily at third graders, Hunt said, but will appeal to all young
"Parents, teachers, and children need to recognize that good sleep habits are just as important
to overall health as diet and exercise," Hunt said, adding that a chronic lack of adequate sleep
can exacerbate a tendency toward diabetes and being overweight, two growing health concerns in
the United States. He also noted that sleep-deprived children are more accident prone than adequately
"Children develop habits when they're young," Maas said. "If they develop careless sleep habits
as kids, they will retain them as adults. We have to learn to value sleep. Sleep is essential;
it is not a luxury."
ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES ABOUT SLEEP DEPRIVATION IN CHILDREN
Kids Suffer from Sleep Deprivation A CNN report describes a five-year educational initiative
to promote healthful sleep habits in children. The program, cosponsored by the National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute (a component of the National Institutes of Health), Garfield creator
Jim Davis's PAWS, Inc., and the National Sleep Foundation, target parents, teachers and health
- Snoring Tied to ADHD in Kids
An article from MSNBC discusses research into the possible link between sleep disorders and
such hyperactivity disorders as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Sleep and Behavior Problems in School-Aged
Children This abstract of an article about sleep problems in children ages 4-12 was published
in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2001.
- Guide to Your Child's Sleep
Order the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidebook about children's sleep.
Sleep Problems An article from the American Academy of Pediatrics discusses common sleep
problems in children.
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Tips on sleep hygiene and a state-by-state listing of sleep centers where sleep disorders can
be diagnosed and treated are provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
- Brain Activity
Is Visibly Altered Following Sleep Deprivation This summary of an article about the effects
of sleep deprivation on the brain was published in the journal Nature (February 10, 2000).
- Lack of Sleep Takes
Toll on Brain Power: Tired Brains Try to Adapt, but Don't Learn Well The effects of too
little sleep on the brain are discussed in this article.
- Hyper Kids
-- Misplaced Blame: Hyperactivity and/or A.D.D. or Just Not Enough Sleep? This article looks
at the relationship between sleep disruption and disruptive daytime behavior, which may be misdiagnosed
as attention-deficit disorder (ADD).
- National Sleep Foundation The
National Sleep Foundation conducts research and informs the public about sleep and sleep disorders.
Some materials are available in Spanish. The site includes an extensive list of resources, such
as international sleep organizations and community sleep centers throughout the United States.
Health: Sleep Deprivation This article provides a good summary of children's sleep needs.
It includes suggestions for getting kids to bed earlier and a table listing average sleep requirements
by age for children between the ages of 1 and 16.
- Sleepnet.com This site includes sleep
disorder information, public forums, a sleep test, and sleep clinician links.
Article by Mary Daniels Brown
Copyright © 2006 Education World