A recent insight has revealed the negative effects of sleep deprivation on the learning abilities of children.
The research which sought to investigate the effect of sleep deprivation on children in Australia, especially the teenagers, who are not getting adequate hours of sleep, pointed out that inadequate sleep could cause a whole lot of problems in children, often misleading specialists to diagnose other health problems.
Dr. Arthur Teng, an expert on sleep and head of the department of sleep medicine at Sydney Children's Hospital, feels that most of the children diagnosed with learning difficulties or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) could be misdiagnosed, as the real problem may just be lack of sufficient hours of sleep.
"A 15-year-old should be getting nine to 10 hours' sleep a night, but they're lucky to get six or seven. It's a public-health issue. We hear a lot of talk about alcohol, but how often do you hear about sleep? It's the one issue doctors don't often address. It's quicker to write a prescription for stimulants than to look at a child's sleep history.", Teng said.
A study carried out in the United States corroborates Dr Teng's observation on the ill effects of sleep deprivation on children, even when they slept one hour less. Such children's academic scores were much less than children who got the requisite number of sleep hours.
A survey carried out among 7000 high-school students in Minnesota also pointed to the difference created with just 15 minutes of extra sleep on children. Teens who received A grades got about 15 minutes more sleep than B students.
This led Dr Teng to conclude that even 15 minutes of extra sleep mattered to children and can impact their performance significantly. He said, "There are a lot of teenagers who are struggling to stay awake. The first thing that goes out the window is your short-term memory, which is what you need to learn."
Earlier research had shown a connection between sleep deprivation and obesity owing to the effect of sleep deprivation on the body's metabolism.
The results has led some US schools to start classes an hour later which has resulted in some positive developments. There was a rise in average test scores as well as a reduction of 16% in the number of teenage car accidents.