Why Sleep and Physical Activity is Important for Children - A Teacher’s View

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We like to feel like we are encouraging our children to take part in physical activity and think they are getting enough sleep, but how do we know we are doing enough? How does it affect children at school and does it have an impact on their education?

The best person to ask may be your child's teacher.

As a classroom teacher, I often had children coming up to me telling me about programmes they had watched the night before. Some of these programmes were on late at night (past 9pm). Some children's bedtime was so late, that it surprised me that I had gone to bed at a time earlier than the children had.

Many children said they went up to bed at 8pm but watched TV, DVD's' or played on their Playstation or Nintendo DS till late, often without their parents knowledge. A large majority of children also said that they would opt to play with handheld games consoles, rather than playing physical games.

Effects of not getting enough sleep and physical activity on children at school:

  • less attentive, often daydreaming
  • constant yawning and lethargy, possibly from waking up late and missing breakfast
  • working at a very slow pace
  • unwilling to answer questions or unable to understand what they are being asked to do
  • less social due to being tired
  • arriving at school late, thus missing valuable early morning teaching input
  • distracting others and delaying the whole class routine, through late arrival
  • forgetting PE kit, reading book, homework etc
  • stressed and unhappy, having been shouted at by a parent or carer for waking up late
  • decline in progress made at school

The impact on a child's education is huge, more than many parents realise. I could tell which children were not getting enough sleep, upon questioning the child, it always seemed to be the case.

What to do.

  1. Try and set a routine.
    Sleep - ensure your child to goes to bed and wakes up at the same time everyday on school days, if possible at the weekends too.
    Games - try and give children a set amount of time on games consoles, encourage them to take part in other more physical activities.
  2. Check to see what your child is doing once you have sent them to bed, have they gone to sleep or are they doing something else!
  3. Read a story to the at bedtime, it might help them 'wind down'.
  4. Does your child really need a TV, DVD player or games console in their room?
  5. Make sure your child has time for a good breakfast in the morning, it will help alleviate lethargy and tiredness at school.
  6. Get out at the weekends and go for walks or bike rides, you will all benefit form the extra exercise.
  7. Give children time out, if they have worked hard all and at school, they need time to do something they enjoy and exercise their creative mind.

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