The Impact of Sleep on Learning and Behavior in Adolescents
by George Mitru, Dan Millrood & Jason H. Mateika — 2002
Many adolescents are experiencing a reduction in sleep as a consequence of a variety of behavioral factors (e.g., academic workload, social and employment opportunities), even though scientific evidence suggests that the biological need for sleep increases during maturation. Consequently, the ability to effectively interact with peers while learning and processing novel information may be diminished in many sleep-deprived adolescents. Furthermore, sleep deprivation may account for reductions in cognitive efficiency in many children and adolescents with special education needs.
In response to recognition of this potential problem by parents, educators, and scientists, some school districts have implemented delayed bus schedules and school start times to allow for increased sleep duration for high school students, in an effort to increase academic performance and decrease behavioral problems. The long-term effects of this change are yet to be determined; however preliminary studies suggest that the short-term impact on learning and behavior has been beneficial. Thus, many parents, teachers, and scientists are supporting further consideration of this information to formulate policies that may maximize learning and developmental opportunities for children.
Although changing school start times may be an effective method to combat sleep deprivation in most adolescents, some adolescents experience sleep deprivation and consequent diminished daytime performance because of common underlying sleep disorders (e.g., asthma or sleep apnea). In such cases, surgical, pharmaceutical, or respiratory therapy, or a combination of the three, interventions are required to restore normal sleep and daytime performance.
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