27 September 2013 - KIDS and SLEEP


KIDS and SLEEP

G'day guys,

Here is some interesting information concerning kids, learning, mobile phones and sleep,
Late nights and lax bedtime routines can blunt young children's minds, research suggests. The findings on sleep patterns and brain power come from a UK study of more than 11,000 seven-year-olds. 

Youngsters who had no regular bedtime or who went to bed later than 21:00 had lower scores for reading and maths.  Lack of sleep may disrupt natural body rhythms and impair how well the brain learns new information say the study authors. 

They gathered data on the children at the ages of three, five and then seven to find out how well they were doing with their learning and whether this might be related to their sleeping habits.  Erratic bedtimes were most common at the age of three, when around one in five of the children went to bed at varying times. 

By the age of seven, more than half the children had a regular bedtime of between 19:30 and 20:30. Overall, children who had never had regular bedtimes tended to fare worse than their peers in terms of test scores for reading, maths and spatial awareness. 

The impact was more obvious throughout early childhood in girls than in boys and appeared to be cumulative. The researchers, led by Prof Amanda Sacker from University College London, said it was possible that inconsistent bedtimes were a reflection of chaotic family settings and it was this, rather than disrupted sleep, that had an impact on cognitive performance in children.

 "We tried to take these things into account," said Prof Sacker.



The children with late and erratic bedtimes came from more socially disadvantaged backgrounds and were less likely to be read to each night and, generally, watched more TV - often on a set in their own bedroom.

After controlling for such factors, the link between poorer mental performance and lax bedtimes remained. The findings are published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Prof Sacker said: "The take-home message is really that routines really do seem to be important for children. "Establishing a good bedtime routine early in childhood is probably best, but it's never too late." She said there was no evidence that putting children to bed much earlier than 19:30 added anything in terms of brain power. 

Dr Robert Scott-Jupp of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: "At first glance, this research might seem to suggest that less sleep makes children less intelligent, however, it is clearly more complicated than that.

"While it's likely that social and biological brain development factors are inter-related in a complex way, in my opinion, for schoolchildren to perform their best, they should all, whatever their background, get a good night's sleep."


Sleep deprivation is a significant hidden factor in lowering the achievement of school pupils, according to researchers carrying out international education tests.

It is a particular problem in more affluent countries, with sleep experts linking it to the use of mobile phones and computers in bedrooms late at night. Sleep deprivation is such a serious disruption that lessons have to be pitched at a lower level to accommodate sleep-starved learners, the study found.

The international comparison, carried out by Boston College, found the United States to have the highest number of sleep-deprived students, with 73% of 9 and 10-year-olds and 80% of 13 and 14-year-olds identified by their teachers as being adversely affected.

In literacy tests there were 76% of 9 and 10-year-olds lacking sleep.  This was much higher than the international average of 47% of primary pupils needing more sleep and 57% among the secondary age group.




Achievement gap 


Other countries with the most sleep-deprived youngsters were New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Australia, England, Ireland and France. High-performing Finland is also among the most lacking in sleep.  Countries with the best records for getting enough sleep include Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Japan and Malta.

The analysis was part of the huge data-gathering process for global education rankings - the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).  These are among the biggest international benchmarks for education standards, based on tests taken by more than 900,000 pupils in primary and secondary schools in more than 50 countries and regional administrations.

The rankings of results for maths, science and reading were published at the end of last year, with Asian education systems dominating the top of the tables. But the researchers also wanted to find out more about the influence of home life. There has been much analysis of the impact of family wealth and poverty, but the Boston College researchers also wanted to measure factors such as sleep and nutrition.

So the tests were accompanied by questionnaires for teachers, pupils and parents about sleep patterns. And this information was compared with pupils' test results, so that the performance in maths, science and literacy could be compared with levels of sleep.


 Brain food 


"I think we underestimate the impact of sleep. Our data show that across countries internationally, on average, children who have more sleep achieve higher in maths, science and reading. That is exactly what our data show," says Chad Minnich, of the TIMSS and PIRLS International Study Center.


"It's the same link for children who are lacking basic nutrition," says Mr Minnich, based at the Lynch School of Education, Boston College.


 Mobile phones and computers in the bedroom are blamed for disrupting sleep 


"If you are unable to concentrate, to attend mentally, you are unable to achieve at your optimal level, because your mind and body are in need of something more basic.” 


"Sleep is a fundamental need for all children. If teachers report such large proportions of children suffering from lack of sleep, it's having a significant impact.


"But worse than that, teachers are having to modify their instruction based on those children who are suffering from a lack of sleep. 


"The children who are suffering from a lack of sleep are driving down instruction." That means that even the children who are getting enough sleep are still suffering from this sleep-related dumbing-down.  Asian countries are the highest-performing in maths tests - and Mr Minnich says this has often been associated with long hours and cramming in after-school classes.


Serious barrier to learning 


It isn't only that young people are kept awake by messaging their friends or using the internet. The light from the screen, held close to the face, is physically disruptive to the natural onset of sleep.


"Having a computer screen that is eight inches away from your face is going to expose you to a lot more light than watching a television on the opposite side of the room," says Karrie Fitzpatrick, sleep researcher at Northwestern University in Illinois. "It's going to tell your brain to stay awake," says Dr Fitzpatrick. 

"That light can reset the whole circadian rhythm system and say, 'Wait a minute, it's not time to go to bed'."



Lack of sleep is also a serious physical barrier to learning.

"Sleepiness is a problem at all stages that are relevant to learning, memory and academic performance," says Derk-Jan Dijk, director of the Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey.

Research into sleep disorders and brain function has shown the importance of sleep in memory and consolidating information. Without sleep, the brain struggles to absorb and retain ideas. 

"There is a growing interest in the associations between adequate sleep and academic performance," says Prof Dijk.


 'Loss can be reversed' 


Dr Fitzpatrick says lack of sleep is going to leave pupils more emotionally volatile, more potentially disruptive and physically struggling to learn. And she says that the loss of sleep and short-term attempts to catch up can cause further and complex disruptions to the way the brain tries to store information.


But there is good news. If you start getting enough sleep on a regular basis, the loss to learning can be reversed.  "As long you haven't gone into extreme sleep deprivation, if you go back to seven to nine hours per night, as long as there has been no permanent damage, you can probably restore the functionality of accumulating, processing and being able to recall memories," says Dr Fitzpatrick.


"The basis of learning will likely be restored to normal levels." Otherwise trying to study without sleep is going to be tough. "Your brain is running on empty."



Clancy's comment: Mm ... I'm not shocked. Many thanks to the contributors,



I wonder if these kids suffer
 the same problems? Doubt it.
They are probably too busy surviving.