“What time did you go to bed last night?” is a question asked by teacher’s around the world when it comes to a change in a child’s ability to focus, concentrate, or learn. This also may be noticed by parents at home when it comes to a child learning a new skill or task.
When it comes to how much sleep your child should be getting in a 24-hour period, the amount necessary will change as they grow older. An approximation of how much sleep a child should be getting in a 24-hour period can be broken down roughly to 14-15 hours for children 1-12 months; 12-14 hours for children 1-3 years of age; 10-12 hours for children 3-6 years of age, and 10-11 hours for children ages 7-10. If you find your child is missing the mark for how much sleep they need, you may see some significant changes in their ability to learn.
If your child isn’t getting adequate sleep, it can weaken the part of the brain that processes problem solving, overall planning, and organization management. The may show in ways such as a typically organized child losing school supplies, homework, or forgetting items at home or school. You may find that your child has a harder time understanding what the priority may be when it comes to homework or school assignments over activities that take less mental energy such as watching TV. You also may find that their work isn’t as good as it was once. Self-pacing through assignments and tests may be impaired.
Even missing the necessary amount of sleep for one night can cause a child to become sleep-deprived. When a child is sleep-deprived they can struggle when they are not being directly stimulated. This may show during calmer class instruction periods, when their brain waves can briefly switch into short sleep-like patterns, even though they are fully awake. It would appear as if your child couldn’t concentrate, listen, or as if they are “spacing out” during calm moments in class. Not getting enough sleep can contribute to being easily distracted and can lead to careless errors.
When a child is sleep-deprived, it has a negative impact on memory. It takes significantly more effort for a sleep-deprived brain to focus than it does for a rested brain. This makes it so that it is harder to remember new things and makes it more difficult to form and store long-term memories. When a child is sleep-deprived and tells you they “don’t remember” something they just learned, they are most likely telling you the truth! Their brain is working against learning. If they have learned new material, it is very likely it will not be clearly remembered the next day.
While sleep-depravation is not the only thing that may cause these issues, it can be a major part. If your child is not getting adequate sleep, it can be a struggle to tell where these behaviors are coming from. This is so significant that in my work as a Developmental Therapist and Certified Child Sleep Consultant, that when working with a child with sleep struggles, we always focus on sleep concerns first knowing that no matter the age of the child, learning will be impacted without adequate sleep. The area of sleep-depravation must be addressed first to allow the child the greatest chance of success. If you find your child is not getting the recommended amount of sleep at night and it may be impacting learning, please feel free to reach out for more information on how speaking with a sleep consultant may help get your child back to sleeping well so they can succeed in every way.
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