Sterling Academy Blog

How academic performance is affected by a lack of sleep 

Posted by Sterling Staff on Sep 28, 2015 10:55:00 AM

All of us know what it’s like to feel “out of it” after a poor night’s sleep. Whether we go to bed too late or our brain just won’t shut down so we can relax, not getting enough sleep makes us groggy and cranky the next day. With back-to-school just around the corner, parents are expressing concern about how to get kids back on a school-appropriate sleep schedule, because “groggy and cranky” are not conducive to learning.   

Sleep is especially important for children, with their growing bodies and minds. Studies have shown that teens in particular may require anywhere from 8.5 to 10 hours a night instead of the 7-8 hours of sleep generally recommended for adults. Prolonged lack of sleep can lead to depression and attention deficit disorders (DAHL) as well as difficulty retaining information, not to mention it’s simply tougher to stay awake in class.

Getting to sleep can be difficult.

Some sleep researchers suggest that students go to bed too late because they cannot fall asleep earlier, not because they want to stay up longer. According to one study, using electronic devices like computers and tablets can contribute to adolescents’ inability to fall asleep. The reason? These devices emit a blue light that affects teens far more significantly than adults, even when teenagers are exposed to just one-tenth as much light.

Writing about this study in a Washington Post article last fall, the researcher explained that releasing the hormone melatonin is our body’s way of regulating sleeping and waking. Exposure to light affects this process. Her study showed that blue light produced by electronics screens inhibits melatonin production. As a result, she recommended teens stop using these devices an hour or two before bedtime.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says school starts too early.

Multiple studies have demonstrated a direct correlation between school start times and student academic performance. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics formally recommended an 8:30am or later start time. The CDC also recommends that school start at 8:30 or later, but says fewer than 20% of American middle and high schools operate on that schedule.

The CDC reports insufficient sleep affects a child’s health and safety as well as their ability to learn.  Teen health risks that have been associated with lack of sleep include using alcohol, tobacco and/or drugs and being overweight. According to the CDC, two-thirds of high school students don’t get enough sleep, a problem that has persisted since 2007 despite evidence of the negative effects of insufficient sleep.

In one large study (WAHLSTROM), students attending schools with delayed start times earned better grades and scored higher on standardized tests.  

Online study eliminates sleep worries for parents and kids.

Students who attend online middle and high school can study whenever they want. There is no reason to rise at a “too early” hour in the morning, still exhausted, simply to get to class on time. If a student feels tired, they can sleep in -- or take a nap – without worrying about meeting a pre-set schedule. It’s easy to set a sleep schedule that provides an appropriate amount of rest for each individual, whether they need 8 hours of sleep per night, or 9 or 10. They decide when school starts.

Waking fully rested means online students can devote all their faculties to the coursework at hand, without drifting off or having trouble grasping and retaining information. That makes it easier to progress successfully through classes.

When students are able to get the sleep they need on an ongoing basis, they don’t have to worry about being groggy or cranky. They are not only prepared to learn, they are better able to cope with everyday life.

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Topics: Online Learning

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