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18 Aug, Thursday
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Montreal Families

Does poor sleep affect academic performance?

Researchers at McGill University and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute have published a study demonstrating that poor sleep quality and quantity have a negative effect on a child’s grades in math and languages.

Using data obtained from 75 healthy children between the ages of 7 and 11 from St. Hubert, researchers determined that when a child slept well, they performed better in math and languages than when their sleep was poor or not long enough.

The children in the study wore actigraphy wristwatches, which evaluated their sleep by measuring their movements. Efficient sleep, the optimal result for better grades in math and languages, was determined by the amount of time the child was asleep compared to the amount of time they spent in bed. The researchers collected data over five nights and then compared the children’s sleep efficiency with their grades.

Head researcher and clinical child psychologist, Reut Gruber, stated that it was their belief that “executive functions, (the mental skills involved in planning, paying attention, and multitasking), underlie the impact of sleep on academic performance, and these skills are more critical in math and languages than in other subjects.”

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, (CPS), children aged 5 to 10 years need an average of 10-12 hours of sleep each night. However, as Gruber attests, poor sleep is often overlooked by parents and physicians. Gruber asserts that her team’s findings demonstrate a need for questions about children’s sleep quality to be incorporated into routine check-ups. And parents should make sleep a priority, especially if they are struggling in math, reading or languages.

The CPS suggests three steps to improve sleep quality:

  • limit screen time, (video games, TV, computers, smart phones)
  • avoid giving children caffeine
  • do relaxing activities before bed, such as reading, listening to music or talking quietly while laying down
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