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Monday, August 14, 2023

Here's How ZZZs Lead to A's

Posted By: Advancing Care

Parents often strive to provide the best opportunities for their children to excel academically. However, amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy school year, one crucial aspect that can be overlooked is a healthy, consistent sleep routine.

Sleep plays a vital role in supporting cognitive function and emotional well-being in school-aged children. Learn why sleep is essential for learning, how it affects academic performance and what effective strategies you can employ to ensure your child gets enough rest, even during a demanding school and extracurricular schedule.

The Importance of Sleep for Learning

Adequate sleep is fundamental for optimal learning and cognitive function, especially in school-aged children. Chronic sleep deprivation may impair a child’s ability to focus, stay engaged in lessons or retain the information they learn in school. “Sleep and academic performance go hand-in-hand. Sleep deprivation affects long-term memory retention and, for kids, better memory retention has been linked to better test scores,” says Nadav Traeger, MD, pediatric pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist at WMCHealth’s Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital.

A sleep-deprived child may also experience mood swings, irritability and an increased risk of behavioral problems, further impeding their learning experience. “Sleep deprivation in all kids can lead to irritability and impulsive behavior. But in teens specifically, a lack of sleep can cause symptoms of anxiety and depression, which can greatly interfere with their ability to engage fully in their classes or schoolwork,” says Dr. Traeger.

Create a Consistent Routine

Nadav Traeger, MD

Establishing healthy sleep routines is essential in promoting consistent and restful sleep. Create a calming bedtime routine that includes activities such as reading, gentle stretching or quiet reflection. Limiting screen time and stimulating activities before bedtime can also aid in preparing children for a good night's rest.

Sleep guidelines for specific age groups can act as a helpful reference for parents as well. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), children between ages 6 and 12 generally require 9-12 hours of sleep each night while teenagers need 8-10 hours.

Most importantly, set and stick to a consistent bedtime. “It’s important to keep the same sleep and wake times every day, including weekends. If sleep shifts by more than an hour each night, this can significantly impact the quality of sleep a child is getting, even if they’re technically sleeping enough hours,” says Dr. Traeger. “Kids need boundaries and routine. Plus, getting your child to follow the same schedule every night and sleep soundly throughout the night will help the rest of the family do the same.”

Prioritize Sleep During a Busy School Year

Unfortunately, between demanding academic workloads and after-school extracurricular activities, it can be challenging for parents and their children to prioritize sleep. Talk with your child about their commitments and work together to create a balanced schedule. “Efficient time management is crucial for students with busy academic and extracurricular schedules. Help your child prioritize tasks so they have enough time at night to wind down before going to bed,” says Dr. Traeger.

Dr. Traeger adds, “As children get older and schoolwork becomes more challenging, some might start feeling stressed about their academic work or anxious about going to school. Even for teenagers, a consistent bedtime can be helpful so they can go into each day feeling well-rested and ready to handle the daily stressors that come their way.”

Keep an Open Dialogue

Encourage open communication with your children about their sleep, and listen to any concerns they might have. If you notice any signs of a sleep-related issue or sleep disorder, seek the advice of a healthcare professional. Persistent snoring and difficulty falling or staying asleep may indicate an underlying sleep problem that will hinder your child’s well-being and academic success.

By understanding the significance of sleep for learning, addressing sleep-related issues and implementing a healthy bedtime routine, parents can equip their children with the tools they need to thrive in and out of the classroom.

Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and Westchester Medical Center, in conjunction with Sleep Services of America, have a full-service sleep lab to help diagnose a variety of sleep disorders in children. For more information about the sleep laboratory, call the Sleep Center at 914.493.1105 or visit MariaFareriChildrens.org/Sleep-Lab