Amazing, Secret Learning Tool: Sleep
teachers could get parents to make just one change in the home environment that
would help kids the most in school, what would it be?
is, get more sleep. Research is showing more and more that overstimulated,
overtired kids who aren't getting enough hours of sleep every night are unable
to concentrate in school or on their homework. They also feel sluggish, eat too
much and don't process their stress as well.
students themselves will tell you that they use class time to catch up on the
Z's they missed because they stayed up into the wee hours of the night
listening to their iPods, Instant Messaging, zoning out on TV, playing computer
games, showering after sports practices and games that go late into the
evening, surfing the Internet, hanging with their friends, and so forth.
school officials front-load the "hard" classes at the start of the school day
because they believe that is when the kids are the most "fresh." No, they
aren't. They're sleep-deprived!
ironic that the bona fide research all shows that markedly reducing class
sizes, paying teachers more, hiring only master's level teachers, and gaining
scads of new money for K-12 education all are improvement ideas that would
basically make NO improvement in student achievement . . . yet bona fide
research also shows that children and teens who get eight or nine or more hours
of sleep per night have better school performance as well as behavior,
attendance, punctuality and overall health.
National Sleep Foundation reports that teens now average between 6.5 and seven
hours of uninterrupted sleep on a weeknight; only one in five gets the
recommended nine hours. It's a big problem for adolescents, whose growth hormones
change their circadian rhythms so that they tend to fall asleep later and want
to get up later in the morning.
be wise to make your child shut off all electronics at least an hour before
bedtime, and use those good, old-fashioned sleep-inducers such as a warm bath
or shower, a comforting bedtime snack such as a banana or bowl of cereal, a
bedtime story (or, for an older child, a nice conversation with a parent), and
a quiet, dark bedroom with no music, phone calls, no open laptops beneath the
sheets, or other stimuli that might interfere with that good REM (Rapid Eye
Movement) replenishing sleep.
Until and unless
your district alters the school day schedule, it's up to the parent to enforce
a home lifestyle that will offer your child eight or nine hours of sleep per
night. A child who's acing "Sleep 101" has a much better chance of acing all
those other classes, with eyes wide open.
in Fairfax, Va., have compiled good information about sleep in a grassroots
effort to force local schools to open later in the morning and help their
children get more sleep. See: