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Lack of Sleep Hurts Kids' Academic Performance: Study

MONDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Inadequate sleep and the absence of a good bedtime routine take a toll on the school performance of primary school children, research shows.

When 6-year-old children go to bed late and sleep less than nine hours each night, their academic skills suffer along with their memory and motivation, researchers in Barcelona found.

"Most children sleep less than is recommended for their intellectual development, which is hindered because the lack of sleep cannot be recovered. This is the first Spanish study that proves that losing out on hours of sleep and bad habits affect schoolchildren's academic performance," Ramon Cladellas, a researcher at the faculty of psychology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, said in a university news release.

In conducting the study, published in a recent issue of the Spanish journal Cultura y Educacion, researchers assessed the sleep habits and academic skills of 142 children aged 6 to 7 years attending different schools.

Cladellas and colleagues found that the children slept nearly eight hours each night, but 69 percent of them didn't get home until after 9 p.m. at least three nights per week. The children also went to bed after 11 p.m. at least four nights per week.

As a result, the study revealed, the young students that slept just eight or nine hours each night performed more poorly in school than those who slept nine to 11 hours a night.

"Taking into account the results obtained, we believe that more than nine hours' sleep and a nightly routine favors academic performance," Cladellas stated in the release.

Missing sleep and bad bedtime habits had a significant negative effect on certain skills linked to academic performance. To a lesser extent, lack of sleep also adversely affected skills related to cognition, such as memory, learning and motivation.

"To this end, the lacking hours of sleep distorts children's performance in linguistic knowledge, grammar and spelling rules, and key aspects in the organization and comprehension of texts, to name a few examples. They are basic skills, meaning that if the pupil, due to a lack of sleep, develops problems in this area, it could have a repercussion on all subjects," explained Cladellas.

"Nowadays, there is great concern because children are glued to the television, computers and videogames, but the same importance is not given to them going to bed at the same time every night," he added.

The study authors concluded that primary school kids should have good bedtime routines and healthy sleep habits that include at least nine hours of shut-eye each night to help ensure they perform their best in school.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about healthy sleep for kids.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: University of Barcelona, news release, Sept. 15, 2011

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