In our hectic, fast-paced lives, we often assume that sleep is like a bank account that we can draw down now and replenish later. But researchers have discovered that even short-term sleep deficits can have serious health consequences from delayed brain development to obesity. Today in our science of sleep series, we’ll be sharing how inadequate sleep impacts behavior and academic performance.
The most common and obvious consequences of poor sleep in children are behavioral problems. As parents know, a missed nap can often result in emotional outbursts. But poor nighttime sleep can cause broader emotional and behavioral trouble as well. Researchers now know that inadequate sleep causes different parts of a child’s brain to communicate less well leading to an inability to control emotions and behaviors. Overtime, a lack of sleep could produce longterm problems like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or depression. What’s most striking is how consistently poor sleep affects children at all ages, from the first few years of life through late adolescence. Thankfully, new research shows that high quality sleep—longer sleep times and consistent sleep schedules—can reverse these problem over time.
Even in the absence of behavioral problems and noticeable cognitive deficits, children will often significantly underperform in school because of poor sleep. Sleep researchers have consistently found that the less children at all grade levels sleep, the less they are able to learn and the worse they do on exams. Several studies have also shown that even short-term restriction of sleep can lead to worse academic performance. But the same studies also show that short-term improvement in sleep quickly improves academic performance. Scientists believe that the reason for this is sleep’s central role in allowing the brain to form new memories and connect them with old ones.
Even long before children reach school-age, poor sleep can worsen their chances for academic success. In a 2011 study, researchers found that in the first two years of life, poor sleep increases the risk of delays in language development. In a study from Israel, scientist found that academic performance suffers from poor sleep in the earliest years of school. They warn that there is a risk that poor sleep early in a child’s academic career could lead to longterm academic difficulties. And In a 2008 study, psychologists found that teenagers who got 9 or more hours of sleep performed significantly better on complex memory tasks than those who got less than 8 hours.
Another study showed that a lack of sleep isn’t just detectable on academic exams; teachers also report more general academic problems with children and adolescents who sleep poorly. Fortunately, Australian researchers found that parents with the right tools can quickly improve their children’s sleep patterns, leading to improved academic performance.
Healthy sleep patterns begin in infancy and are established in early childhood. Scientists now recognize that the most important elements in building healthy patterns center around comforting and safe associations with sleep and a shared child-parent bedtime routine that soothingly focuses on sight, sound, touch, and smell. Cloud b products are speciﬁcally designed to aid parents in each of these areas.
This post is excerpted from our report, “Sleep is Fundamental for Children’s Health.” Download the full PDF HERE.