Sleep and Learning

Sleep and Learning

child in bed sleeping well

Sleep can affect concentration, memory and behaviour. It’s no wonder that how well your child sleeps has an impact on how well he learns.

About sleep and learning

Good-quality sleep helps your child concentrate, remember things and behave well. These all help her to be a successful learner. Children who don’t sleep well, or who don’t get enough sleep, are more likely to feel sleepy and to have difficulties with learning. If you notice that your child is have trouble concentrating, remembering things or learning, consider whether she’s getting enough sleep.

Children who are sleepy have trouble concentrating during the day. If your child can’t focus on what he’s trying to learn, whether it’s climbing a tree or singing a song at school, it will affect his learning.

Remembering things is part of learning. For example, if your child is tired, it’s harder for her to remember basic things such as how to spell words, how to do math calculations, or where to find information in a book or on the internet. It’s also harder for her to remember how to do things such as playing a musical instrument.

Our brains create and strengthen different types of memory in different sleep cycles. For example, just before your child wakes in the morning, his brain uses the last stages of REM sleep to sort and store memories and information from the previous day and get ready for the day ahead.

Sleepy children tend to have more problems with behaviour at preschool or school - and at home too! For example, a sleepy child might act out in class or refuse to follow the teacher’s instructions. A sleepy child might miss out on learning because the teacher is busy managing her behaviour. She might also miss out on playing with other children if they don’t like the way she’s behaving.

Tip: If your child is having problems with his concentration, memory or behaviour, checking his sleep is a good place to start. If you’re worried, or the problems go on for more than 2-4 weeks, talk to your doctor or public health nurse.

Working on sleep problems

Lots of children have sleep problems, which can often be helped with some simple strategies.

A good place to start with sleep problems is your child’s sleep habits. Sometimes changing both daytime and nighttime habits can make a big difference to your child’s sleep. For example, you might be able to reset your child’s body clock with a regular bedtime routine, morning sunlight, regular exercise and a healthy diet.

See your doctor or a public health nurse if you think your child’s sleep problems might be related to a medical condition or if you’re worried your child might have a persistent sleep problem.

Did you know?
About 50% of sleep problems that start before a child starts school continue into the early years of school. You can support your child’s learning by dealing with sleep problems as they come up and helping your child develop good sleep habits.

© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.

Resources & Links:

Sleep: Helping Your Children - and Yourself - Sleep Well

Last Updated: November 30, 2014