Sleep better, succeed better



A good night's sleep can help students perform better in mathematics and languages.

Reut Gruber, a researcher at the Douglas Institute and professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, has found that learning outcomes in these subjects often depend on the quality of the student's sleep—a parameter that is seldom taken into account when a child experiences academic difficulties.

Too little sleep or poor sleep could therefore constitute risk factors in a child who is struggling in the classroom.

The clinical child psychologist hopes that her conclusions will incite pediatricians to inquire about their patients' sleep habits during routine medical examinations and persuade schools to teach healthy sleeping, just as they do for exercising and eating.

Reut Gruber used actigraphy to monitor the sleep of 75 healthy children between the ages of 7 and 11 enrolled in the Riverside School Board in Saint-Hubert. Her method relied on a wristwatch that recorded the wearer's movements while sleeping. The logs were used to assess each child's sleep habits: their effectiveness and actual duration in relation to the time spent in bed. Professor Gruber then compared the sleep patterns and the grades that appeared in each student's report card.

She observed that the children who slept efficiently—without waking for at least 85% of the night—performed better in mathematics and languages. But surprisingly, sleep did not seem to impact grades in science or art. She concluded that the executive functions involved in planning, being attentive and multitasking require a well-rested brain. Too little sleep or poor sleep could therefore constitute risk factors in a child who is struggling in the classroom. Reut Gruber aims to soon expand her study to high school students.