Sleep: The Secret Weapon for Success

The article first appeared in the May 2013 Colonial Crier. With Advanced Placement Tests, ERB Tests and final exams scheduled in the busy months of May and June, you may not think there will be enough time for sleep, but getting plenty of sleep is the one thing you can do to raise test scores without studying.

Sleep Will Raise Your Scores Creativity and problem solving are directly related to sleep. German scientists at the University of Lubeck found that adults who had eight hours of sleep before taking a simple math test were three times more likely to figure out the right answer than their sleep deprived counterparts. A Tel Aviv University study found that sixth grade students, when deprived of just a half hour of sleep, had their test score levels drop to that of a fourth grader. A University of Virginia study found that sleep deprivation caused a seven-point reduction for scores on vocabulary tests.

How Much Sleep Sleep experts have varying opinions about the optimum amount of sleep. A Brigham Young University student recently found that students ages 16 to 18 did their best work on standardized tests with only seven hours of sleep.

Recommended Sleep
Recommended Sleep

However the National Sleep Foundation recommends more. Every child is different and as children grow older they need less sleep. As a general guide lower school students need at least 10 hours of sleep; students in middle school need to sleep at least 8 hours; and high school students should have at least 7 hours of sleep.

Establish a Routine To achieve the highest benefits from sleep, it has to become a nightly routine. Children should have an established time to go to bed and to wake up, even on the weekends. A Brown University study on sleep-shifting found that every hour a child stays up late on the weekends correlated to a seven point drop in test scores.

Experts recommend that you avoid bright lights, loud music and falling asleep with the television on at bedtime. A great bedtime routine can include taking a warm bath or shower, listening to classical music and reading a book or magazine for pleasure.

Avoid eating a large meal, eating high quantities of sugar, drinking caffeine or consuming excessive liquids before bedtime. If your child takes naps regularly and is not sleeping through the night, limit or end nap times. By age five, most children do not need naps at all.

If you want your children to do well on their year-end tests, they should stop studying at the right time to ensure they will get the proper amount of sleep.