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Examining How Sleep Leads to Better Grades

Janelle Cox

Sleep plays an essential role in the way that our students learn. A study conducted by the Department of Psychology and Human Development at the UCL Institute of Education examined the relationship between sleep and the way adolescents functioned in school. They took students and measured their sleep, using a survey and sleep diary, along with students’ grade point averages, which helped to measure their academic achievements. The study found that students slept an average of seven hours per night. Students who had a poor quality of sleep and who woke up a lot at night had a lower academic performance, poor attention span, and challenging behaviors. Students who had an optimal quality of sleep, meanwhile, were more likely to have an increase in academic performance and behavior regulation. These findings show that sleep plays a vital role in our students’ learning capacity and academic performance. Here, we’ll take a closer look at why sleep leads to better grades.

Longer Sleep Related to Better Academic Performance

In the same study mentioned earlier, 48 teenagers with a mean age of 17 participated in the study. These students who slept an average of seven hours had a bedtime of around 11:30 p.m. The study revealed that students who slept longer and went to bed earlier had better academic results on their tests taken in school. The students who had a better quality of sleep were more closely linked with cognitive processing. Simply put, if you go to bed but you don’t have a sufficient amount of sleep, or what researchers like to call “Efficient sleep,” then you probably won’t do well academically. However, if you get good a night’s sleep, then there’s a better chance that you’ll perform better academically.

Researchers from McGill University and Douglas Mental Health University Institute wanted to take their research a step further and look at specific subject areas where students needed different skills to perform well with enough sleep. They found a significant performance variable, especially in the subject of math, that was related to a child’s good night of sleep. What we can take away from these findings is that if a child is not doing well, particularly in math, then you may want to take a look at her sleep schedule.

Why Children Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

There are several factors that can determine why today’s children aren’t getting enough sleep. Many people blame it on technology and lifestyle factors, like drinking caffeine and energy drinks before bed. Plus, you’ve probably read the articles about how utilizing technology before bed leads to a poor night’s sleep. When you have adolescents eating sugary snacks, drinking caffeine, and utilizing technology before bedtime, these factors will have an effect on how well a child will sleep at night. Research also tells us that as children grow, later sleep and wake patterns change, which is a natural part of their biology. Then you couple in teenagers having an earlier start time at school, and you have some sleep-deprived children.

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Sleep Foundation Recommendations

A recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 60 percent of children under the age of 18 complained of being tired during the school day. The study suggests that only 15 percent of the teenagers actually get the recommended hours of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the recommended duration of sleep for children ages 6-13 is between 9-11 hours per night. Teenagers from 14-17 should get 8-10 hours, and young adults ages 18-25 should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

To develop healthy bedtime habits for children, parents should try establishing a regular sleep schedule, keep technological devices out of the bedroom, and as limit sugary, caffeinated beverages before bed to help children get a better night’s sleep.

Do you think getting enough good quality sleep at night leads to adolescents having better grades? Please share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below, we’d love to hear your take on this important topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.