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The True Performance Enhancing Drug? Sleep.

At Marks Education, we talk a lot about the importance of sleep. With our clients, we regularly cite sleep studies that discuss the benefits of a full night’s rest to help manage stress, improve performance on standardized tests, and maintain a student’s general health. We visibly cringe, as we did a few days ago, when a student admits to staying up until 2 a.m. to work on college application essays.

A few weeks ago, NPR ran a story on the importance of sleep to an individual’s well being. Psychologists from the University of California, San Francisco, assessed the extent to which sleep helps keep people healthy. In the study, 164 subjects were infected with a live common cold virus, and researchers discovered that the individuals who were sleeping more were less likely to get sick.

In another recent article, focused specifically on the benefits of sleep for children, the National Sleep Foundation made clear the guidelines on how long children should sleep: 10 to 13 hours for preschoolers, nine to 11 for kids between ages 6 and 13, and eight to 10 hours for teenagers. It is during these quiet hours that sufficient growth hormone is released, a child’s brain recharges for the next day, and levels of glucose in a child’s bloodstream are modulated.

We work with many teenagers who are balancing multiple commitments both in and out of school. Between homework loads and extracurricular activities, achieving eight to 10 hours of sleep might seem impossible. But remember that every little bit helps! As a first step, students should try to “unplug” earlier in the evening and create a tranquil, technology-free bedroom environment. No one needs his or her smartphone under the pillow pinging endlessly to announce the arrival of new text messages. This is certainly not helpful when trying to achieve a more peaceful, uninterrupted night’s sleep!

There isn’t one perfect sleep solution that applies to all students. We work with each of our clients and their families to come up with tailored, manageable ways to increase total hours of sleep and improve overall sleep habits. Studies show that sleeping more not only improves test scores and academic performance, but also results in happier, more emotionally balanced kids.

Do we really need a better reason than that to make sleep a priority?

Some additional articles that might be helpful:

“Hard Lesson in Sleep for Teenagers,” New York Times;

“Why U.S. Teens Are More Sleep Deprived Than Ever,” CBS News;

“Teens Are Sleep Deprived. Here’s how that affects sports, school and health,” Washington Post;

“Judgment and Safety,” the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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