New research has confirmed what we have long suspected – that lack of sleep among primary school children is having a devastating effect, with nine out of 10 teachers complaining that pupils are too tired to learn. The poll also reveals that more than half – 55% – of teachers agreed that the brightest children in the classroom are the best slept and most wide awake.
And while many parents with young children worry about the effect that computers, gaming and mobile phones are having on their offspring, 88% of the 250 teachers questioned felt that distractions in the bedroom, such as games machines and TVs, are at the root of the problems, along with the fact parents are not strict enough about enforcing bedtimes.
Jessica Alexander of The Sleep Council says: “As part of our project we wanted to establish just how much of an issue lack of sleep has become among young school children. Even we have been taken aback by the sheer scale of the problem.”
The issue has now become so widespread that nearly a quarter of teachers admitted they’ve had had to resort to letting very tired children nap in a corner of the classroom. Nearly two thirds – 65% – say the problem is so serious they fear for their pupils’ long-term progress, while nearly half said lack of sleep made children unruly and badly behaved.
More than two-thirds of teachers say that up to a quarter of their pupils regularly came into school looking tired, and a further one in five said between a quarter and half the class is regularly affected. Less than four in 10 teachers – 38% – felt a poor diet was to blame for sleep-related problems.
When asked how they dealt with the problem, more than six in 10 said they contacted the parents but worryingly, a small minority – six per cent – say they ignore it as they just don’t have time to deal with it.
Jessica adds: “Lack of sleep would appear to be an issue across all primary school age groups which is a real concern. Our schools project will be looking to raise awareness among schoolchildren themselves, but will also involve them monitoring the sleep habits of their parents. “Hopefully this will in turn remind parents that they need to ensure their children get a decent night’s sleep if they are to do well at school.”
The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) policy advisor Sian Humphreys says: “Schools cannot succeed without effective partnerships with the home. A tired and irritable child will not thrive, particularly in the active and pacey modern classroom. NAHT is particularly concerned about the still small but rising numbers of pupils who stay up late engaged in online gaming.”
The Sleep Council’s free ‘Good-Night Guide for Children’ booklet is filled with hints and tips for parents on how to help their children get a good night’s sleep.
It can be downloaded from www.sleepcouncil.org.uk or requested by calling the leaflet line on 0800 018 7923.