A Full Night of Sleep Leads to Academic Success for Middle School Students

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Both shorter and longer sleep duration were associated with fewer academic enables and lower academic skills and math grades.

Averaging 8 hours of sleep for adolescences does result in increased odds of academic success, particularly for middle school students.

A team, led by Catheryn A. Orihuela, Departments of Human Studies and Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, examined sleep duration and sleepiness in academic performance and cognitive processes in early adolescence.

“Insufficient sleep and sleepiness are common in adolescence and can negatively impact school performance,” the authors wrote.

In additional, poor academic performance in middle school is linked to poorer psychosocial functioning in high school. And while sleep is an important factor related to cognitive and academic performance, there is not much known about the role of sleep in academic skills and enablers, which play a role in promoting academic success.

In the study, the investigators examined middle school students (n = 288; Mage = 12.01) who wore activity watches for 7 nights, reported on daytime sleepiness, and completed computerized tests of attention and episodic memory. The analysis also included 262 parents with a mean age of 40.17 years and 40 teachers with a mean age of 40.30 years. All of the participants were part of the Adolescent Diet Study, a 3-year study looking at the effects of diet and nutrition on emotional functioning and academic performance in middle school students.

The team assessed academic performance using parent and teach reports, as well as English or language arts grades.

The investigators used the Picture Sequence Memory Test from the NIH Toolbox to assess memory and the Flanker Inhibitory Control and Attention Test to assess attention.

Sleep duration was measured using the Altigraph GT9X Link activity tracker each student wore for 7 days and nights and sleepiness was measured using the Pediatric Daytime Sleepiness Scale.

On average, the participants slept just under 8 hours per night and reported a medium degree of sleepiness.

After adjusting for demographic covariates, longer sleep duration was associated with lower academic skills and sleep duration was not uniquely related to any of the other academic outcomes.

Compared to a normal average score of 100, the participants performed at average on attention, but lower on memory.

The results show distinct associations between daytime sleepiness and academic outcomes. However, associations were not found for cognitive processes and daytime sleepiness.

Both shorter and longer sleep duration were associated with fewer academic enables and lower academic skills and math grades.

“Students with the highest levels of academic performance occurred near 8 hours of sleep per night,” the authors wrote. “These results support the importance of addressing daytime sleepiness and optimal sleep duration in early adolescents.”

The study, “Associations between sleepiness, sleep duration and academic outcomes in early adolescence,” was published online in Psychology in the Schools.