Sleep deprivation – the hidden factor

The latest news of today, which has been around for years. Sleep deprivation is described in the news as ‘a significant hidden factor in lowering the achievement of school pupils, according to researchers carrying out international education tests’

According to Boston College, around 63% of aged 9-10 suffer from a lack of sleep, while in other affluent countries such as the USA has an even higher rate (around 73%). Both of these figures are significantly higher than the global average of 47% in the primary school.

This has been reported to be such a serious disruption that lessons in the school have had to be pitched at a lower level to accommodate sleep-starved learners.

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.

The researcher, Chad Minnich, of Boston College reports;

“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,”

“It’s the same link for children who are lacking basic nutrition,”

“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.

Why would I be bringing this to you? Well it’s not just because it was in the news, but I used to be one of these children, especially under my parents. Due to sometimes not getting any sleep at all, I would often fall asleep in the middle of the school day. This was especially noticeable as I was the highest ability in my class and was often relied on by the teachers to provide answers if other children was struggling. Obviously if I was asleep, I was unable to fulfill this role.

Advice for teachers: Be aware of children who are lacking in sleep, they can really affect how your lessons go during the day. If any issues are occurring, talk to the parents and relevant colleagues and make sure these issues are resolved. It is my goal to make as many children as possible to achieve their full potential. This is an unwanted barrier to learning.

Feel free to comment if you have any experiences of this.

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