Lack of sleep among primary school children is having a devastating effect in schools with nine out of 10 teachers (92%) complaining that pupils are so tired they are unable to pay attention in class. More than a third (38%) said lack of sleep among youngsters is a daily problem for them.
Nearly nine out of 10 teachers (88%) felt that too many distractions in the bedroom (games machines, TVs etc) were at the root of the sleep related problems along with the fact parents are simply not strict enough about enforcing bedtimes (82%).
And more than half (55%) of those questioned agreed that the brightest children in the classroom are the best slept and most wide awake.
The poll of 250 primary school teachers was conducted for The Sleep Council which is launching its first ever ‘sleep awareness’ project in schools – “Better Brains with More Sleep” – as part of National Bed Month (March). It aims to teach primary school children the importance of a good night’s sleep and the factors – such as regular bedtimes and a good bed – that can affect it.
“As part of our project we wanted to establish just how much of an issue lack of sleep has become among young school children,” said Jessica Alexander of The Sleep Council. “Even we have been taken aback by the sheer scale of the problem.”
It would seem lack of sleep has now become so widespread in primary schools that nearly a quarter (24%) of the teachers questioned admitted that they had had to resort to letting children who are very tired sleep in a corner of the classroom.
For two thirds of teachers (65%) the problem is so serious they consider that the long term progress of their pupils can be affected while nearly half (48%) said lack of sleep made children unruly and badly behaved.
Commenting on the survey results, Siôn Humphreys, Policy Advisor for the National Association of Headteachers said: “NAHT is pleased to support this important initiative, drawing attention as it does to an oft-hidden yet significant matter. Schools cannot succeed without effective partnerships with the home. A tired and irritable child will not thrive, particularly in the active and pacey modern classroom. NAHT is particularly concerned about the still small but rising numbers of pupils who stay up late engaged in online gaming.”
And it’s not just academic performance that can be affected by youngsters who stay up too late. More than four in ten (45%) of those polled said lack of sleep made young children more susceptible to colds and other minor ailments.
When asked how they dealt with the problem of tired children in the classroom, more than six in 10 (66%) said they contacted the parents. But rather worryingly a small minority (6%) of teachers said they just ignored the problem as they simply didn’t have time to deal with it.
Proving that a good night’s sleep is key to academic achievement, more than two-thirds (68%) of teachers questioned said up to a quarter of their pupils regularly came in to school looking tired – a further one in five said between a quarter and half the class regularly seemed tired.
Less than four in 10 teachers (38%) felt a poor diet was to blame for sleep-related problems.
Said Jessica Alexander: “Lack of sleep would appear to be an issue across all primary school age groups which is a real concern. Our schools project will be looking to raise awareness among schoolchildren themselves but will also involve them monitoring the sleep habits of their parents.
“Hopefully this will in turn remind parents that they need to ensure their children get a decent night’s sleep if they are to do well at school.”
The Sleep Council’s free ‘Good-Night Guide for Children’ booklet is filled with hints and tips for parents on how to help their children get a good night’s sleep. It can be downloaded from www.sleepcouncil.org.uk or requested by calling the leaflet line on 0800 018 7923.
Notes to editors
1. The Sleep Council survey – Time To Learn – was carried out between February 8 and February 14 by Opinion Matters via an online survey. A total of 251 UK primary school teachers (teaching pupils aged between 4 and 11-years-old – reception to Year 6 classes) took part.
2. A copy of the full survey results is available on request.