Sleep and School Performance: Helping Your Child Learn Best
As Dr. Mary Ann stated in her back-to-school post, changing to “school hours” for sleeping and waking is important as students transition back to school. It is also important to continue to monitor your child’s sleep throughout the school year because sleep plays an important role in learning, memory, behavior, and emotional control. Studies have found that children who sleep less than recommended amounts perform more poorly on ability and school achievement measures.
In addition, children with ADHD often have more sleep disturbances than comparison groups, including their ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Students with ADHD already have a more difficult time with executive functioning in school, so it is essential that parents of children with ADHD help set their children up to be as successful as possible by ensuring their children get enough sleep at night.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amounts of sleep per night:
- Ages 3-5: 10-13 hours
- Ages 6-13: 9-11 hours
- Ages 14-17: 8-10 hours
Guaranteeing that your child gets enough sleep each night can be tricky in our modern world of multiple after-school activities and many choices of technology. Here are some tips that may help:
- Educate your child on why sleep is important. This may help him “buy in” to the bedtime routine. There are many child-friendly videos on YouTube that you can watch and discuss with your child.
- Be sure that your child gets enough exercise each day, but be careful that it does not happen so close to bedtime that it keeps her from settling down.
- Limit your child’s caffeine intake; encourage him to not drink caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
- Monitor your child’s food intake. Eating a large meal close to bedtime could disrupt sleep; however, some children with ADHD that do not eat much throughout the day may need a light snack to be sure they do not wake from hunger pains.
- Limit use of technology an hour before sleep; instead encourage your child to take a bath, read, or engage in another quiet activity. Parents of older children may want to have their children check-in their electronic devices to parents at a set time each night.
- Set a consistent bedtime and routine, including on the weekends. Children, especially those with ADHD, learn behaviors more quickly through the use of structure and consistency. A simple bedtime routine could include changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, going to the restroom, and reading a book with mom or dad before bed.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment in your child’s room. Keep the room cool and dark. Your child may also benefit from having a fan or white noise machine, or she may fall asleep better while listening to music or a recorded book.
- Adults and older children still awake should keep the light and sound down in the rest of the house to promote the sleep-friendly environment.
- Parents can be good role models for their children by making sleep a priority for themselves, as well.
- If these strategies do not work, children with ADHD may also benefit from behavior management strategies, such as a rewards chart, to help motivate them to stay in bed.
Blogger Stephanie Dunne, Ed.S., is the Center Director at Springer School and Center. Prior to coming to Springer, Stephanie practiced as a school psychologist in public and private schools for ten years.