[su_dropcap style=”default” size=”3″ class=””]A[/su_dropcap] lack of sleep has become a major problem plaguing American society—that’s why we discussed top 10 people at high risk for fatigue earlier on the napnook blog. Atlantic Health Sleep Centers reports that nearly 75% of Americans report experiencing fatigue or sleep disorder like symptoms several times per week. Harvard Medical School reports that obstructed sleep apnea and its related symptoms of fatigue cost between $50-100 million in indirect costs in just one year. At the top of the list of those most at risk for the dangers of fatigue were some of the most vulnerable members of society: children and their caretakers.
Most think of sleep problems as an adult experience. However, new research has shed light on how a lack of sleep may affect physical and intellectual development as well as school performance in adolescents. The National Sleep Association reports that 70% of students do not get the recommended amount of sleep. A survey by the Center for Disease Control in 2011 showed that those students who lacked necessary sleep were more likely to show “risky behaviors.” And the problem is not exclusively with teenagers; the University College of London studied data of over 10,000 students ages 5-7 and found those with inconsistent bedtimes were more likely to exhibit hyperactive behaviors, emotional problems, and behavioral issues.
For all students, the cost of fatigue is even more drastic as it affects school performance. A study by the University of Barcelona found that students who received 9 hours or less of sleep performed more poorly in school than those receiving 10 or more. The American Academy of Pediatricians also links a lack of sleep with lower test scores, tardiness, and an inability to concentrate.
Students are particularly at risk because of two main reasons: a lack of schedule at home and an early school start. The University College of London along with the University of Barcelona studies both indicate that parents consistently following the recommended hours of sleep will produce students who are less likely to show signs of fatigue. As for schools, a movement by the American Academy of Pediatricians pushes to move school start times to no earlier than 8:30am giving children a better chance at receiving the sleep necessary to ensure healthy cognitive function.
Teachers and Parents
On the other side of the spectrum are the caretakers of children– teachers and parents. Both face unique challenges that put their bodies and overall health at risk for developing sleep disorders or chronic fatigue symptoms.
For teachers, the demands of the classroom can be quite challenging. Teachers are known for working long shifts of twelve or more hours a day with most of it actively moving about the classroom. The energy requirements of teaching, especially when instructing elementary students, only becomes more pressing when a lack of sleep becomes an issue. Despite this, The European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology report that teachers only receive 6 hours of sleep per night. Writer and neurologist Judy Willis believes that the lack of sleep is a combination of the energy drain during the day plus the high stress that comes with being in education.
Parents, especially stay at home parents or those with newborns, are also at heightened risk of fatigue. The rigors of child rearing, including bedtime routines, can be enough to put parents at risk for sleep issues. Parents with newborns know the issue all too well: feedings at all times of the night; while parents of older children often suffer in silence. For example, according to WebMD, 14% of elementary students disturb their parents’ sleep. The effect can be more serious thank you may think; sleep-deprived parents are at risk of concentration-related issues such as car accidents.
For teachers and parents, the demands never seem to end, but many experts agree that both caretakers can regain their healthy sleep habits by following the same rules as their children: consistent sleep schedules and healthy sleep hygiene patterns. By putting away the cell phones at night, taking a short nap during the day, going to sleep earlier, and creating a healthy sleep environment, a good night’s rest is more likely to be received.
Reducing the Risk of Fatigue
Students do not need to suffer the precarious effects of sleep deprivation. Instead of falling behind their peers in intellectual and emotional developments, students who adjust and ultimately improve their sleep will perform better in school and have fewer behavioral problems. Parents and teachers can learn a similar lesson by improving their sleeping habits starting with leaving the stress of work and life at the bedroom door.
Together, parents, teachers, and students can transform the classroom by banishing fatigue and sleepiness. With a joint commitment towards improving sleep quality, the classroom and home can focus on what truly matters: the growth and education of our students.