Lack of sleep damaging academic development of children

ITV reports that research published today has revealed that the academic development of British children is being significantly affected by dangerously low levels of sleep. The study, carried out by the University of Leeds in conjunction with Silentnight, looks into the effect of bedtime routines and the impact on quality of life of 6-11 year olds.

Led by Dr Anna Weighall, a developmental cognitive psychologist with expertise in sleep research, this is the first major study to characterise children’s sleep habits in the UK and has been conducted after consultation from more than a thousand parents.

The findings have revealed that 36 per cent of primary school age children get eight hours or less sleep a night and 15 per cent get seven hours or less. Such low levels of sleep are likely to have a negative impact on a child’s ability to function in the classroom and reach key milestones.

Poor routine could be to blame, with 83 per cent of children reporting being awake by 6:30am on a weekday despite five per cent still being awake at 10pm the night before and 16 per cent still being awake at 9pm.

“Our results show that children who experience inadequate sleep are more likely to have problems paying attention in class, forgetting things and keeping up with school work, and may then end up missing school because they feel unwell.

What’s clear from our data is that parents know how much sleep children should be getting but for whatever reason it’s not being made a priority and children just aren’t getting the necessary time in bed. From looking into bedtime and waking patterns we can see that families are consistently going to bed late during the week and on top of this children are regularly having later nights at weekends, disrupting their sleep patterns and contributing to problems during the school week.”

The findings show that children who have smartphones or tablets in the bedroom sleep less than those who leave their devices out of the bedroom – losing up to an hour of sleep a night compared to families that keep bedrooms a tech-free zone. This sleep loss applied even to children who kept devices in their room but had them switched off and the trend increased as they got older, with 11-year-olds losing the most sleep because of tech.

Other factors keeping children awake include worries about bullying and worries about homework.

Read more Lack of sleep damaging academic development of children

Have children fallen asleep in your class? How much does their work suffer? Have you approached the parents about it? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter~ Tamsin

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