Getting Sufficient Sleep is One of The Keys to Sustained Academic Improvement


Aug. 22, 2013

According to the article “How Well You Sleep May Hinge on Race,” in the New York Times August 20, 2012 by Douglas Quenqua, “doctors say that unlocking the secret to racial sleep disparities could yield insights into why people in some minority groups [Hispanics and Black]experience higher rates of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Helping poor or immigrant populations to get more solid sleep, they say, could also help break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage.”(emphasis is mine)

We agree that lack of sleep has a huge impact–especially on children–and that getting more sleep might be a key factor in lifting children up from poverty.

While the New York Times article initially reports studies that suggest sleep deprivation might be linked to racial factors, it later posits that there might rather be a strong cultural factor that pre-determines sleep patterns.

The New York Times article suggests that the racial differences in sleep patterns may be linked to cultural patterns in bedtime routines, noting that“Black and Hispanic children in America are far less likely to have regularly enforced bedtimes than white children, according to a 2010 study conducted by Dr. Hale for the National Institutes of Health. White children were also more likely to have ‘language-based’ bedtime routines – those that involve reading or storytelling – both of which are associated with a wide range of cognitive and behavioral advantages.”

These findings that Black and Latino children are more likely to go to sleep with a television on, rather than being read to or reading on their own, are reinforced by the research done by Dr. Ron Ferguson Director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard.

We find these studies are very much in keeping with our own informal studies in schools where we have implemented our Whole School Healthy Habits Program. We regularly observe tired students falling asleep in class. Over 50% of the elementary school children, 75% of the middle school children and 90% of the high school children report feeling tired on a regular basis.

The 2007 New York Magazine article by Po Bronson “Snooze or Lose” is worth reading. It reports the dramatic impact sleep deprivation has on learning. The article quotes Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University whose research shows, “The performance gap caused by an hour’s difference in sleep was bigger than the normal gap between a fourth-grader and a sixth-grader. Which is another way of saying that a slightly sleepy sixth-grader will perform in class like a mere fourth-grader. “

The Bronson article goes on to report, “Every study done shows a similar connection between sleep and school grades-from a study of second- and third-graders in Chappaqua to a study of eighth-graders in Chicago. The correlations really spike in high school, because that’s when there’s a steep drop-off in kids’ sleep.”


Principals, even if you believe that your students’ lack of sleep is having a significant impact on all of the initiatives you are putting in place, as a principal or administrator, you may mistakenly think this situation is totally out of your control. It is not!

See what middle school students who have participated in our Whole School Healthy Habits Program say about the life changing impact of getting enough sleep.


8th Grade Boy:  

I know it’s not good for me to only sleep 8 hours or less, but I was so used to sleeping late, that I didn’t even care how many hours I slept.

Every day I was tired in every class and especially tired at home, I didn’t even want to do my homework.  In addition, I had a lot of trouble waking up at 6:30 AM.

The most important thing that I learned about sleeping is that when you get your rest, you’re alert and focused in class more.

8th Grade Girl:  

I would go to sleep around 11 every night.  Because of the Healthy Habits Program I started going to sleep an hour earlier every day.  When I went to sleep at 9  or 8 o’clock, the next morning in school I was confident and very active.

My life at home improved also. I no longer breezed through my homework.  I took my time and did my chores earlier than usual.  Getting enough sleep is very important and improved my ability to get along with others, my ability to pay attention, my grades, my happiness, and my life at home. It’s amazing how just by sleeping a few hours earlier everyday can improve your life.

Blog by Gail Greenbaum, President Whole School Healthy Habits


One thought on “Getting Sufficient Sleep is One of The Keys to Sustained Academic Improvement

  1. Pingback: How to perform better in School | School Tips

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