Getting enough sleep is critical for students, but recent analysis shows that American students aged 9-10 are the sleepiest in the world, causing them to lag behind in school. Among this age group, 73% of students taking math and science tests were reported to be sleep deprived, compared to an international average (of 50 countries) of 46.5%, and a low of 12% in Kazakhstan.

The countries with the sleepiest kids after the United States were New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Australia. Some of the most well-rested were found in Azerbaijan, Slovakia, and Japan, as well as Kazakhstan. Researchers surmised that the reason for such a huge difference between countries like the US and Kazakhstan is that in more affluent countries, children have access to gadgets such as phones and computers that they use late into the night. Holding a screen so close to one’s face is more likely to keep the person awake when compared to a television screen across the room, for example.

Data from two large, international studies that sought to gather information about global education rankings, called Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PRILS) were analyzed by representatives from Boston College. TIMSS and PRILS data are based on tests from over 900,000 students in more than 50 countries around the world.

These findings have major implications for students’ performance in school. According the Chad Minnich, of the TIMSS and PIRLS International study center, “Our data show that across countries internationally, on average, children who have more sleep achieve higher in maths, science and reading,” and this works in a similar way that being well-nourished does for children. Of course, the opposite is also true: children who have less sleep do worse in school. Lack of sleep makes it difficult for children to focus on learning because all the body wants to do is rest. As a result, teachers often have to modify their instruction because “The children who are suffering from a lack of sleep are driving down instruction.”

Fortunately, there is hope for sleep deprived children. Getting kids on a regular sleep schedule the negative effects of sleep deprivation, like inability to focus and emotional volatility, will eventually dissipate. Permanent damage from sleep deprivation can be avoided by having children sleep seven to nine hours per night.

For information on how iLs might aid with sleep difficulties, see the iLs Pillow page.