How Just a Little More Sleep Can Change a School Grade

Getting a good school grade involves hard work, study, regular school attendance, and organization skills, among other factors, but did you know it also requires getting an adequate amount of sleep?  Getting good grades in elementary and high school is important, so parents try to ensure their kids are doing their best to achieve academic success. But both kids and parents may be ignoring one vital component to getting good grades—sleep. Studies show that how much sleep a student gets on an average night can make a significant difference to their grades—and even just 20 minutes more sleep each night might improve a student’s school grade.

Studies About Sleep and Grades

One of the earlier studies in this area of research, a 1996 paper published by Pilcher and Huffcutt, has served as a foundation for more recent investigations. This study established a strong link between sleep deprivation and impaired cognitive function. The paper was also instrumental in describing the effects of low sleep quantity on motor functions and mood, both of which were found to suffer significantly in the absence of sufficient sleep.

Building on this earlier work, other researchers would later attempt to demonstrate a direct link between sleep and grades. In 2010, a study titled The Link Between Sleep Quantity and Performance for the College Student accomplished this goal. This study demonstrated a positive correlation between increased quantity of sleep and better grades, as well as a correlation between sleep deprivation and lower grades. Interestingly, however, the results of this study found no significant relationships between the quality of sleep and college GPAs.

Another critical piece of the puzzle was added in 2016 by a joint study conducted by McGill University and Douglas Mental Health University Institute. This study, which sought to answer the question of how sleep habits affect grades in elementary school students, found that extended sleeping times correlated to increased report card grades in both mathematics and English. Perhaps more surprising, however, was the finding made by this study about just how little extra sleep was needed to have an effect. Researchers discovered that a mere 18.2 extra minutes of sleep each night during the school week was enough to produce noticeable improvements in grades.

What Can Parents Learn From These Studies?

Cumulatively, these and other studies linking sleep quantity to academic performance should make parents of school children aware of just how important it is that their children get enough sleep. Three takeaways for parents from these studies are:

  1. Children who do not get enough sleep will likely have lower grades as a result.
  2. Children who get more sleep during school nights will benefit from higher grades.
  3. Even small extensions in sleeping periods over the course of the week can have a significant impact on a child’s academic performance.

How Parents Can Promote Healthy Sleep Habits

From these studies, it’s clear that parents should be doing everything possible to instill healthy sleep habits in their children. One of the top recommended methods for developing good sleep habits in children is to get them onto a consistent schedule of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Setting aside an hour before bedtime for quiet, non-stressful activities can also help children fall asleep faster.

And remember to lead by example. Children who see their parents sleeping inconsistently or going to work in a sleep-deprived state may adopt those habits themselves. As with all healthy habits, it is up to parents to set good examples for their children.

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