How Sleep Affects Learning, Memory, & Education

July 7th, 2018

Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?

Do you know how many hours of sleep per night your child needs? It varies by age group.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, children ages 3 to 5 need 11-13 hours of sleep every night, children ages 5 to 10 require 10-11, and teenagers should sleep 8.5-9.5 hours.

Unfortunately, most children are not getting the recommended hours of sleep every night, and that can have devastating effects on their ability to learn and form memory, ultimately affecting their education.

Why Do We Need Sleep in the First Place?

We all know that we need to sleep every night, but the actual reasoning beyond restoring energy and strength is somewhat of a mystery.

One of the most vital roles of sleep is the one it plays in storing and condensing our memories. Every single day we absorb enormous amounts of data, and when we sleep, our brain decides what to log in short-term or long-term memory. This process is called consolidation and occurs during REM sleep, or rapid-eye-movement sleep.

When we do not get enough sleep, the brain’s ability to successfully convert information to long-term memory suffers. With children, this impairs their ability to do well in school. Sleep-deprived children struggle to stay awake, pay attention, and retain what they’ve learned that day at school.

In a study conducted in 1998, before the blue light from our iPhones, iPads, and laptops were keeping us awake at night, two sleep specialists found that high school students who received poor grades were sleeping an average of 25-40 minutes less than their counterparts who received higher grades.

How Can We Make Sure Our Children Get Enough Sleep?

  • Consider keeping a sleep journal for your child. Monitor what time they go to bed, how long it takes them to fall asleep, and what time they wake up in the morning.
  • Restrict their use of technology before bedtime. The blue light emitted from our screens tricks our brains into thinking it’s still daytime, so the production of melatonin is inhibited. Melatonin is the hormone that controls our sleep cycles.
  • Maintain a regular routine. Try to help them get to sleep and wake up around the same times every day. Consistency is key.

Interested in continuing the conversation about how sleep affects learning and impacts your child’s education? Contact Selwyn School today.

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