Back to School: Healthy Sleep Habits

The young and the sleepless: Advice on getting a good night's sleep.

ByLEEZEL TANGLAO via via logo
August 23, 2010, 2:56 AM

Aug. 23, 2010— -- Do your children's sleep habits affect their grades?

A recent study shows that the inadequate sleep can result in lower math and literacy scores.

Research shows that getting a good night's sleep may be the single most powerful predictor of a child's academic performance in school.

One thing parents can do to help with their children's academic success is to set up a sleep routine each night.

A study found that children who had established bedtimes had higher math and literacy skills.

Inconsistent bedtimes can lead to homemade jet lag or the desynchronization of the two systems that regulate sleep -- the circadian rhythm and the homeostatic pressure system.

Just staying up three hours later on weekends is the equivalent to flying across three time zones every weekend.

"Good Morning America" medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard shared some tips for healthy sleep habits and some surprising causes and consequences of poor sleep.

Who needs the most sleep?

School-age children between age 5 and 12 need 9 to 11 hours. Adolescents need eight and a half to nine and a half hours.

Adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep.

In eastern Virginia, researchers found that in one city, delaying high school opening times by an hour to give more kids more time to sleep helped reduce the number of car accidents involving teenagers.

The crash rate for 16- to 18-year-olds was 19.2 percent lower than in a nearby town where the start time was 7:20 a.m.

Sleep Versus Extracurricular Activities

According to University of Minnesota's Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom, a motivated student can sacrifice sleep to maintain high GPAs, but she may pay for that success with higher levels of depression and stress.

Teen boys who have a high number of extracurricular activities are significantly more likely to be involved in a fall-asleep car crash.

Those with part-time jobs both sleep less and have lower grades.

For the majority of kids, rather than thinking it's a choice between sleep and activities, the opposite is true: students who sleep more are involved in more afterschool activities with no detriment to their grades.

They have the energy to be involved. Schools that have delayed start times have seen their students sleep more and increase their participation in sports and extracurricular activities.

Bad Sleep Signs

One sign that may indicate a sleep problem is snoring. About 16 percent of kids snore a few times a week.

Researchers now caution that kids' snoring is not like adult snoring.

Even a little snoring is a major cause for concern because their developing brains can be deprived of oxygen.

Other common sleep disorders such as nightmares, restless leg syndrome and frequent night waking can have a negative impact including early drug use or clinical-level anxiety as adults.

Sleep Disorders and Medications

Kids are on much more medication than they used to be.

Research indicates as many as 25 percent of kids diagnosed with ADHD have an underlying sleep disorder.

If treated and for their sleep disorder, the ADHD would disappear. Despite the risks posed by sleep disturbance, the number of children treated for them is small.

Parent should consult a qualified sleep specialist -- few pediatricians have expertise with sleep problems.

ADHD is often treated with Adderall, which has the side effect of making it difficult to sleep.

But if your child is not sleeping well and there doesn't seem to be any other sleeping disorder, talk to your doctor about timing the medication so that it's taken earlier in the day.

The same applies to decongestants -- taking those before bed can make it difficult to sleep.

Naps Not Good for Learning?

When it comes to your brain function and actual learning, naps are not good.

Students may wake up feeling better but a two-hour nap is the equivalent to 150 mg of caffeine.

Naps do nothing to repair diminished cognitive functioning.

For example, kindergarteners who take long naps do worse on puzzle-solving. Click here to return to the "Good Morning America" Web site.

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