School Age Kids SleepingSleep plays a critical role in academic children’s performance. A new study from McGill University and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal finds that getting a good night’s rest is not just about the quantity of sleep. The researchers investigated the connection between academic performance and what they call ‘sleep efficiency’, or the ratio of time spent in bed to time spent sleeping. They revealed that better sleep efficiency—more sleep for the amount of time spent in bed at night—is linked to better grades.

The researchers gathered data from 75 children between the ages of 7 and 11. The children were enrolled in school in Saint-Hubert, Quebec. To measure the children’s sleep efficiency, the researchers used actigraphy; the children wore watch-like devices that measured their movement while they were in bed. The researchers averaged five nights of sleep data to establish the children’s habitual sleep patterns. Then, they correlated the sleep data with report card grades in math, language, science, and art.

Better sleep efficiency was associated with higher grades in math and language. Sleep efficiency had no bearing on grades in science and art.

Study leader Reut Gruber, professor in McGill’s Department of Psychiatry explains that sleep plays a larger role in academic performance than most may realize. “We believe that executive functions (the mental skills involved in planning, paying attention, and multitasking, for example) underlie the impact of sleep on academic performance, and these skills are more critical in math and languages than other subjects. Short or poor sleep is a significant risk factor for poor academic performance that is frequently ignored”

The study highlights the importance of identifying sleep issues. Many children may have sleep problems that go unnoticed. The researchers suggest that pediatricians incorporate questions about sleep habits into their routine checkups.

This research is published in the journal Sleep Medicine.

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