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Why Sleep is Important for Academic Success

Why Sleep is Important for Academic Success

Phil Lawlor is a Sleep Expert at Dormeo. Here he tells us why it's important to get enough rest and how poor sleep habits can cause problems at school.

It's always pretty obvious when somebody hasn't had enough sleep.

Yawning, difficulty following a conversation and nodding off in class are all tell-tale signs but could be a cause for real concern.

Making a habit out of not getting enough sleep can cause more mental and physical issues than just wanting to snooze during the day.

The academic performance of even the brightest students can take a hit if they prioritise socialising, entertainment or their workloads over rest.

Find out how a lack of sleep might affect learning, and use our top tips to help you or your child beat the sleep slump and develop good sleeping habits.

girl sleeping comfortably in bed with head on pillow

Sleep can affect your health and psychological wellbeing 

The importance of sleep is really driven home when we look at the impact lack of sleep can have on mental health.

It’s not just feeling grouchy, unfocused, and over-emotional the next day when we don’t get enough sleep. Sustaining bad sleeping habits, particularly in children, can be a contributing factor in depression and anxiety (National Library of Medicine).

Sleep can have a negative impact on your physical health

Physically, not getting enough sleep can take a lot out of us.

“Just one week of fewer than six hours' sleep can increase our likelihood of getting a cold (NHS)”

Most importantly, bad sleep routines have negative effects on our circadian rhythm.

Circadian rhythm, or our 'body clock', is how our brains know it's time to perform certain functions. It means we can successfully release the right hormones to make us more alert prior to waking up and release the hormones that make us relax on an evening.

A good circadian rhythm also means our digestive systems can operate properly, so being unable to develop positive sleeping habits early on in life can make it increasingly harder to function during the day.

The benefits of better quality sleep 

Koala bear asleep in a eucalyptus tree

Sleep plays an important role in learning - so much so that sometimes a good sleep routine can be the difference between a bright student and a successful one, because getting enough rest allows us to use our brains more effectively.

Cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance are all affected by how much sleep we get (National Library of Medicine), and kids that don't get enough often suffer from memory problems, which can affect the amount of information they retain when they're learning.

Well-rested students are more likely to remember their lessons and even show evidence of being better creative problem solvers as a result.

A good night's sleep can also make you more socially interactive, as you'll typically be better at managing your emotions and behaviour, which is important for developing confidence at school.

Moody and impulsive children are less likely to engage with classroom activities, so they could miss out on vital lessons as well as making friends.

How can you ensure a better night’s sleep?

sleeping woman resting in bed

Adults need around 8 hours of sleep, but children and teenagers need to sleep for much longer. It's best to aim for at least ten hours per night.

Our environment can have a big impact on our ability to fall asleep. About an hour or two before going to bed, it's important to keep things quiet and dimly lit to minimise stress.

Although it's tough, try to limit screen time during this period of the day, as well as stimulants like sugar or caffeine after your evening meal.

Make sure bedrooms are kept clean and tidy, as mess can make it harder to fall asleep. Additionally, a comfy bed can make a world of difference; a new, more supportive mattress or a fresh set of bedsheets could make bedtime more exciting and promote better rest.

The transition from daytime to night-time can be made much easier with the addition of consistent evening habits, like always having a bath or reading a book before bed.

Stress and anxiety affect sleep

a hand pressing the off button on an anologue alarm clock

Stress and anxiety can play a role in establishing poor sleep habits in children and adults. If your child is nervous for upcoming exams, struggling to complete a project, or completely overwhelmed by a subject, it might be worth considering ways to help combat their stress and anxiety.

A private tutor will help them with exam prep and break down any trouble subjects. As their confidence in a subject increases, their anxiety decreases.

Journalling, getting plenty of exercise, spending quality family time together and simply talking through their problems will all help.

These are just some of the reasons why it's important to get a good night's sleep, particularly if you or your child have school the next day. Hopefully, our tips will help you to get the most out of bedtime.

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Adam B

Adam B

15th May 2019