Sleep deprivation: the hidden obstacle to success

A blue screen illuminates your child's face as the clock ticks past midnight. Come morning, and the sunlight seeps through the windows as your child's alarm goes off. They groan and roll over, before dragging themselves out of bed, already exhausted. Like most students, they are sleep deprived. This sleep deprivation could be due to bad habits, or it could be due to a natural change in the circadian rhythm of an adolescent. If students do this every day on school nights, eventually the sleep deprivation will impact their learning potential.

When we sleep, the fluids that bathe our brain cleanse it by removing toxic waste products. If we don't get enough sleep (for primary aged students – 6-13-year-olds – this is 10-11 hours nightly) our brain ceases to function as effectively. Notably, sleep deprivation impacts memory retention, meaning that what your child has spent all day learning at school is less likely to sink in. Furthermore, sleep-deprived students experience concentration issues, shortened attention spans, and impaired decision-making abilities, causing them to miss important information.

As children become adolescents, sleep is one thing that commonly goes out of the window. This is problematic, and as bad habits develop, a regular sleep routine becomes harder and harder to maintain. If children are delaying their bedtime, sabotaging their grades, and trying and failing to fix their sleep routine, these are valuable tips to be implemented. We recommend that you start these methods before your child has a problem, as preventative health care is by far the most effective method.

How to develop good sleep routines

1. Do not use electronic devices at least 30 minutes before your intended bedtime.

Even if your child claims that they can use their phone because they have turned on the yellow light filter, say no - it still counts. Turning off electronic devices helps your child to wind down, as the blue light emitted by electronic devices is what stimulates them. Exposure to blue light late at night tricks your brain into thinking it's daytime, so your body sends hormones to your brain to say that it's daytime. 

A bonus of this technique is that your child will become bored and may begin reading to entertain themselves as their last resort. This is great and will further their skills in English as compared to their peers who do not read.

2. Have a reward system in place for when they go to bed at the right time.

If your child goes to bed at the right time, maybe you will cook them breakfast or congratulate them. However, if they miss the required bedtime, they might have to complete a chore they hate. Perhaps their phone is confiscated. Maybe they have to use their pocket money to pay for their own food the next time you go out. Don't make your punishment too harsh, remember this is hard for children, and an unreasonably cruel punishment has the potential to discourage your child, rather than encourage them.

3. Make your child stick to this bedtime, even on the weekends.

The weekends are what derails the entire sleep routine, so rather than letting your child stay up 3 hours later than they do on school nights, don't push bedtime back further than 1 hour on the weekends.

4. Make sure your child exercises.

An exercise routine is crucial to your child's sleep routine. Exercise tires the child out, and a tired child is more likely to want to go to bed and resist the lure of electronic devices.

5. Encourage your child to get ready for bed soon after dinner. 

You know that point where you're so tired, and all you want to do is go to sleep, but you just can't be bothered to drag yourself off of the lounge, brush your teeth, and change into your pyjamas? Your child knows this feeling too, so helping your child get into a routine of preparing for bed before they are tired will prevent them from procrastinating about going to bed.

If your child is not ready for bed before they reach that point of exhaustion, they may find themselves staying up hours after they would have liked to go to sleep, avoiding the simple tasks of getting up, brushing their teeth and changing into their pyjamas.

6. Avoid caffeine before bed.

This means tea, coffee, and chocolate. Don't let your child have any caffeinated foods past the afternoon. Other substances, such as headache remedies and guarana juice (which is not caffeinated, but has a similar effect), should also be avoided.

At 300 Selective, we want your child to succeed.  To us, that involves Adaptive Quizzes available on our website (see Why You Need Adaptive Quizzing), alongside guidance from expert tutors, and your child's own lifestyle choices, such as their sleep habits. There is more to study than meets the eye.

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