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Losing sleep to study can cost kids a grade

UCLA researchers who surveyed high school students found

UCLA researchers who surveyed high school students found that those who sacrificed sleep to study performed poorly — not better — on a test the next day. (Credit: Fotolia)

It’s 10 p.m. Are your kids in bed? Or are they up cramming for an exam?

If they’re pulling an all-nighter, they may want to pay heed to this study.

UCLA researchers who surveyed high school students found that those who sacrificed sleep to study performed poorly — not better — on a test the next day. The study appears in the August issue of Child Development.


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Dr. Victor Labruna, licensed psychologist with offices in Manhasset and East Northport, agrees. The finding, he says, is applicable to older and younger children. “Children who do not get enough sleep have more problems with attention and memory, perform more poorly on tests, and have more absences,” he says. They also “are more withdrawn, less social, and more irritable.”

But with school in session and tons of homework and after school activities on their plate what can families do to keep a healthy sleep schedule? “Sleep is one of the basic healthy behaviors that’s very important,” Labruna advises. Getting on a regular sleep schedule “has to be part of the fabric of the family . . . Family life has to be set up in a way that sleep is protected.”

Maybe it’s also time to put this myth to bed. You can’t make up for lost sleep on weekends as teens are prone to do, Labruna says. “Research shows you can only make up about 2 hours per night . . . So on a weekend you can really only make up about 4 hours of your sleep deficit.”

If your teen is losing sleep over her 8 a.m. chemistry test, tell her to hit the sack already and catch some zzzs. With recharged batteries, she might be able to score a 100.

Here are tips from Labruna to help kids get enough sleep for school:
1. Keep consistent sleep routines, including on weekends. Use the bed only for sleeping. (No watching TV, using laptops, talking on the phone/texting in bed.)
2. Don’t engage in highly stimulating activities in the hour before bed. (Unplug the TV, video games, etc.). Take a bath, read, listen to music to unwind.
3. Teens shouldn’t nap during the day to make up for lost sleep at night. It just throws off their sleep routines.
4. Stay away from caffeinated or energy drinks (popular with teens).

Tags: parenting , tweens and teens

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