Sleep is the new ingredient for school success, suggest sleep studies

Well, it’s time to wake up to how sleep deprivation cuts into academic performance of children. A recent study by NUH found a strong correlation between insufficient sleep and headaches in children, and more than half of them slept late on most nights.

Now, evidence of suffering school work is also mounting. Researchers at Brown Medical School, US, did a study on children aged 7 to 12 who had less than 10 hours, which indicated the obvious to most: a good night’s sleep is a good day at school.

A study at St. Lawrence University, New York, also found that staying up into the night is not an effective way to succeed in school.

Short-term effects of insufficient sleep are delayed reactions and a higher tendency to make mistakes. This makes sleep so important to enable children to reach full academic potential, said  Sharon Teo, a full-time tutor.

“I always recommend that students get optimum sleep of at least 10 hours, especially during exam periods,” she said.

But it is during exam periods that some last-minute crammers do the opposite. “They stay up til late to make up for lost time,” said Sharon, who tutors 22 children, full-time.
Paediatric sleep expert, Dr William Kohler, of Florida Sleep Institute, says that an adequate quantity and quality of sleep is necessary for optimal learning. He encourages parents to ensure  age-approriate hours of eye shut for school-going children.

Enforcing appropriate bedtime routines and a healthy sleep environment, free from distractions are also important factors, says Dr Kohler.

Several studies presented at the Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, also outlined that even mild sleep loss produces marked deficits in children’s cognitive development and functioning.

Over the past decade, children have been going to bed later and sleeping less. Parental anxieties about school and studies, family routines, school expectations, a wired lifestyle, among others have been found to be the culprits.
The American Association of Sleep Medicine (AASM) suggests  determining your child’s individual sleep needs by recording sleep habits and issues in a log. If he is not alert and functioning properly the next day, sleep length should be gradually increased or decreased, or his bedtime routine adjusted accordingly.



Disruptive sleep patterns in children affect the whole family. There is no one ‘right’ way to set bedtime routines and each family may have different lifestyle choices and work schedules. Find a way to balance all chaos, while being mindful about children’s sleep needs.


A common problem, cited by AASM, is kids staying awake up til late during weekdays and sleeping-in on the weekends, which can make falling asleep and waking up during the week difficult. Go for a consistent schedule all week long.


Make his room peaceful and comfortable, complete with the right pillows, and blankets to keep the cold out in the middle of the night. Calming pictures also help make his room a welcoming retreat.


Remove all forms of technology from his room – game systems, mobile phones, TV and computers, so his brain associates his bed with sleep.


Your child’s room should ideally be a dark, quiet room with a temperature of 23 degrees Celsius.


Ensure he is not on homework overdrive. Recommended homework time for primary kids is 5-10 minutes for every year of age. Avoid packing his schedule with tuition or enrichment.

Time Management

Manage his timetable  to allocate enough  time for sleep. Some kids who return from school early choose to have an hour of afternoon nap to recover from exhaustion, while others go to bed earlier. Recommended sleep hours by AASM:
Ages 5 – 8    :  11 hours
Ages 9 -13    :  10 hours
Ages 14 – 16 :    9  hours