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School intervention in sleep may help children get to bed earlier, new study finds

A study of sixth-class pupils found a 21% rise in those going to bed before 11pm after learning more about sleep.

Child sleeping.
Child sleeping.
Image: Shutterstock/Yuliia D

A SLEEPING PROGRAMME taught in school and at home might be the answer to improving children’s sleep behaviour, according to a study by Dublin City University (DCU). 

As part of the study, 24 sixth-class children in an urban DEIS primary school were taught a sleep-based class by their teacher at school and their parents at home for five weeks. 

The results from this showed a 31% reduction in daytime sleepiness, according to the study conducted by members of the DCU Institute of Education. It also found a 21% increase in the number of children who went to bed before 11pm all nights of the week. 

Director of the Educational Disadvantage Centre and co-author of the report Dr Paul Downes said the results of the study showed a “real change” in sleeping patterns on school nights and awareness of the sleep issue, despite being conducted on a small sample group. 

“It offers real promise for replication and development elsewhere,” said Downes in a statement.

“There is a glaring silence on this key educational and health issue of sleep deficits which will hopefully be remedied in the next National Children’s Policy Framework.” 

Poor sleep duration can cause excessive sleepiness during the day which can lead to problems with concentration, attention and cognitive functioning. 

Before the programme began, 63% of the children involved reported feeling that they needed more sleep going to school. After the study, this reduced to 32%. 

75% of the group beforehand were going to bed before 11pm and this rose to 96% afterwards.

75% of those involved in the study also said they would go to bed earlier in the future after the study took place. The results also showed an increased awareness of the negative impacts electronic devices have on sleep. 

The children were taught lessons on sleep health in school and they kept sleep diaries to give them a chance to reflect on their habits at home. Parents were also involved and took part in an information session with a professional sleep health consultant. 

The report said that these results and the feedback from the children and parents involved suggests a “positive potential” for curriculum interventions to address the sleep needs of school children. 

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