Lack of sleep means kids do it hard at school

According to new study by Australian researchers, a lack of sleep can have a bad affect on the ability of children to both learn and interact at school.

The new study by researchers from the Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne, has revealed that nearly a quarter of children aged six and seven have poor sleeping habits, which has a major effect on their health, behaviour and learning ability.

The researchers used data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children to identify the extent of sleep problems among children and the effects, they say almost 25% of six and seven year olds have trouble sleeping and those with the most persistent sleep issues suffer the most serious health, behaviour and learning problems according to their parents and teachers.

According to the researchers a lack of sleep affects concentration and how children interact with peers and teachers.

They say previous research had shown children are more likely to drop out of school if they had a poor early transition to formal education and if they have enough sleep children are able to make the transition and take on the workload while their brains are still growing and taking in a lot of information.

Lead researcher, Jon Quach says some might consider it to be an overwhelming amount of information and therefore the brain needs to be working at it's best. This would not be the case if children were not getting enough sleep.

The study examined almost 4,500 children, whose sleep behaviour was recorded at the age four to five and again at six to seven and it was found that about one-third of children reported poor sleep habits.

Another survey revealed that as many as 23 per cent of the children had sleep problems and 6 per cent were classified as moderate or severe.

The problems included children who were unhappy to sleep alone, reluctant to go to bed, restless sleepers and waking up during the night.

However, compared to the first survey about 10 per cent had resolved their problems, while about 3 per cent had continued to sleep badly and another 3 per cent developed new problems.

The researchers say if a child has a persistent sleep problem then their outcomes will be worse but if they have a resolving sleep problem which is treated or just naturally goes away, then their outcomes will improve.

Mr Quach, who will present the research this week at the Population Health Congress in Brisbane, says parents should seek professional help if their child has persistent sleep problems.

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