Ask Dr. Nandi: A good night's sleep is key to school success

Posted at 10:02 AM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 10:03:12-04

Now that kids are back in school, parents might want to know how important sleep is when it comes to school success.

Question: How do poor sleeping habits affect students?

I talk about this to my kids all the time, because sleep is food for the brain. If a child of any age isn’t getting enough shut-eye, they won’t feel alert enough which can affect their learning. They work slower, they can struggle with concentration, forgetting teacher directions or what they’ve just been reading. They’re also moodier, more irritable or hyper and they can also be more impulsive. But when a student gets the right amount of sleep they need, they report being more energetic, and they have fewer attention and behavior issues. And that’s because their brains and bodies can function at their best.

Question: So how much sleep do kids actually need?

The amount of sleep students need all depends on how old they are. So let me break it down by age:

- 3 to 5 years old’s need between 10 to 13 hours per day and that includes naps

- 6 to 12 years old’s need between 9 and 12 hours

- And lastly, teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours per night. This can be challenging because they often dislike going to bed at a decent time. But tired teens can really struggle in school, they do not do as well when compared to well-rested teens. Research shows they are more easily distracted and can struggle with attention and learning overall.

Question: I know many parents have bedtime problems, kids just don’t want to go to sleep. What tips do you have to share?

As a parent, I can really relate to that – if my wife and I don’t follow our bedtime routine every night, it’s difficult to get the kids to sleep. So what we do is have them brush their teeth, get in their pajamas and then it’s time to read bedtime stories. This really helps to settle them down. Now I also have some prescriptions to share:

1. Have a consistent bedtime. It should be the same time, every night.

2. Shut off electronics about an hour before bed. And don’t allow them in bedrooms, it is way too tempting especially for teens.

3. And lastly, if you have teens, get their feedback on how they can get the recommended amount of sleep they need. Come up with a bedtime that works for both them and you.