Children who sleep less than nine hours and do not have a fixed bedtime routine are more likely to have a poor academic performance, new study has found.
Psychologists at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and Ramon Llull University looked at 142 primary schoolchildren (65 girls and 77 boys aged between six and seven years of age) from different schools and which did not have any sleep-related pathological changes.
Parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire, concerning the children's habits and number of hours slept per night.
The researchers found that pupils who slept 8 or 9 hours had a worse performance than those that slept 9 or 11 hours.
"Taking into account the results obtained, we believe that more than 9 hours sleep and a nightly routine favours academic performance," said Ramon Cladellas, researcher at the Faculty of Psychology at the UAB.
Losing out on hours of sleep and bad habits produced negative effects, especially on more generic skills (communicative, methodological and transversal), which are essential for academic performance.
"To this end, the lacking hours of sleep distorts children's performance in linguistic knowledge, grammar and spelling rules, and key aspects in the organisation and comprehension of texts, to name a few examples. They are basic skills, meaning that if the pupil, due to a lack of sleep, develops problems in this area, it could have a repercussion on all subjects," said Cladellas.
The authors concluded that maintaining a healthy sleep pattern at this age contributes to positive cognitive development. They suggest that parents attend prevention programmes to become more aware of the matter.
This is the first Spanish study that proves that losing out on hours of sleep and bad habits affect schoolchildren's academic performance.
The findings appear in the journal Cultura y Educacion.